Alaska Legislature

Two from Kotzebue, one from Utqiagvik will vie to replace resigned Rep. Westlake

Alaska Democrats announced Wednesday that they have chosen Sandy Shroyer-Beaver and Eugene Smith of Kotzebue and Leanna Mack of Utqiagvik as candidates to replace former Rep. Dean Westlake of Kiana, who resigned last month amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Gov. Bill Walker will now choose Westlake's successor from those three. His choice must then be confirmed by a majority of Democrats in the state House, which starts its annual legislative session Tuesday in Juneau.

Walker will interview the candidates "as timely as possible," said a spokesman, Jonathon Taylor. But, Taylor added, it's too early to say the exact date Walker will make his choice.

A nine-member committee of Democrats from Westlake's House district made the selections. The district sprawls 600 miles across northern Alaska, from Point Hope east to Kaktovik.

Smith and Shroyer-Beaver both sit on the city council in Kotzebue, the Northwest Alaska hub town.

Smith was once chief of staff to Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor Clement Richards.

But Richards fired him over a controversial school construction contract, Smith said in an interview last year, in which he described himself as "collateral damage."

[Related: Northwest Arctic officials move ahead on new school for climate-threatened village]

Shroyer-Beaver, at the time, was president of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, which vehemently opposed the project.

Mack works in the North Slope Borough mayor's office in Utqiagvik.

Both Mack and Shroyer-Beaver were not affiliated with political parties until switching their registrations to Democratic during the application process to replace Westlake, according to state records and Jay Parmley, the Alaska Democrats' executive director.

Parmley said Mack registered as a Democrat as the application process played out, though officials at the state elections division said Wednesday that the change hadn't shown up in their system yet.

Shroyer-Beaver changed her registration to Democratic in late December, four days after Westlake announced that he would resign, according to state records.