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Alaska Legislature

Alaska Democrats recommend 3 for vacant House seat representing Bethel area

The Alaska State Capitol (Marc Lester / ADN)

Southwest Alaska Democrats have recommended three candidates — including two former Bethel mayors — to replace Zach Fansler, the former Democratic state House member who resigned after a woman accused him of slapping her in his hotel room.

Two of the candidates, announced Monday, are Alaska Native women. One is Tiffany Zulkosky, an executive at the Bethel-based Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and a former Bethel mayor.

The other is Yvonne Jackson, who runs job training programs at the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents, a nonprofit tribal consortium.

Raymond "Thor" Williams is the third candidate. He's also a former Bethel mayor and has worked as a case manager fighting opioid abuse for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.

The person ultimately appointed by Gov. Bill Walker will, for the rest of the year, represent House District 38 — a big swath of Southwest Alaska centered on the Kuskokwim River. The district includes the regional hub of Bethel and more than two dozen villages.

Rep. Zach Fansler (Marc Lester / ADN)

Its House seat has been vacant since Feb. 12, when Fansler resigned after a Juneau woman said he slapped her twice in his hotel room.

If Walker sticks to longstanding political tradition, he'll pick Fansler's replacement from the three candidates recommended by Democrats. But state law allows him to pick any registered Democrat from Fansler's district.

Earlier this year, Walker replaced another former House member, Dean Westlake of Kotzebue, with a man who wasn't among local Democrats' original recommendations.

Walker also tried to ignore Republicans' recommendations when he named a replacement for former Wasilla GOP Sen. Mike Dunleavy. But Senate Republicans, who must confirm Walker's appointment by a majority vote, rejected the governor's choice, and Dunleavy's old seat remains vacant.

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