Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed Anchorage Republican Rep. Josh Revak to an Alaska Senate seat left vacant by the August death of Chris Birch.
The seat is key to the state’s ongoing debate over the Permanent Fund dividend, and the struggle to fill it has generated a historic amount of friction among Republicans.
The governor announced the appointment Friday morning. Revak’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Alaska Senate’s 12 Republicans, and in a written statement, Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said Republicans are determining a time to meet and consider the appointment.
“It would be an honor to serve with them if they choose to confirm me,” Revak said by phone from Washington, D.C., where he was attending a reunion of his military unit.
Last week, Senate Republicans failed to confirm the governor’s first choice for the vacancy, Rep. Laddie Shaw. It was the first time in state history that sitting Republicans declined to confirm a candidate nominated by local Republicans and picked by a Republican governor. The 6-6 vote on Shaw’s nomination, one vote shy of confirmation, was due to Senate Republicans’ ongoing disagreement over the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
The six who voted no on Shaw either offered no comment when asked about Revak’s appointment or did answer their cellphones Friday.
Shaw had voted in favor of a payment using the traditional formula in state law. Half of the Senate’s Republicans (and an 11-9 majority of the Senate overall) voted in favor of a smaller amount. One of the votes in favor of the smaller amount came from Birch. If he is replaced by a senator in favor of the traditional dividend formula, it would deadlock the Senate 10-10 unless another lawmaker changes his or her vote.
Revak voted for a traditional dividend in the House this year.
“I have a voting record on the dividend, but I haven’t spoken about it with the Senate,” he said when asked about the vote.
Dunleavy also supports a traditional dividend payment. Speaking to reporters about Revak’s prospects for confirmation, the governor said, "We’re hopeful, just like we were with Laddie Shaw."
Like Shaw, Revak represents one half of the South Anchorage district Birch was elected to represent. Like Shaw, Revak is a military veteran and was first elected to the House last year.
“He’s well-qualified, and we think he will make a good senator,” Dunleavy said of Revak.
Shaw and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, offered their support for Revak in a written statement.
“There is absolutely no good reason on this Earth that he should not be confirmed for this seat, and I look forward to calling him ‘My Senator,'" Shaw wrote.
Revak was not one of the three candidates suggested to the governor by local party officials. Governors are not required to follow the wishes of local officials but traditionally have done so. Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow said by phone that because Revak has already been elected to the House after an endorsement by local officials, he has their support.
“The governor feels that Josh Revak has won in the district, is a sitting representative, has been elected in the district and has been supported in the district, so in his eyes, it makes him one of the more qualified candidates out there,” Shuckerow said.
Revak has previously worked as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and both lawmakers offered him their congratulations Friday.
Revak said he learned Thursday that Dunleavy would be appointing him to the seat.
“This was very much a shock to me,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was being vetted for this. I was just sort of going about my daily life here and yesterday got a call from the governor’s office.
“The governor called me and said, ‘Josh, I would like to appoint you to go through the process to fill the vacant Senate seat, and would you accept?’” Revak said.
He said the governor did not ask about the dividend.
On Friday, he took time out from a bus tour of Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s traditional home, to watch the governor announce the pick.
He said he has since spoken briefly with Giessel to offer her respect as Senate president and “let her know that I’m very much looking forward to sitting down with the senators.”
If senators reject Revak, Dunleavy must name a replacement within 10 days of the rejection.