In a series of interviews Tuesday, Republican state senators said Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, has enough support to be confirmed to a South Anchorage Senate seat vacated by the death of Chris Birch.
Alaska’s 12 Republican senators were previously deadlocked 6-6 on the confirmation of Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, but Senate President Cathy Giessel of Anchorage and Sen. John Coghill of North Pole say they are inclined to support Revak after voting against Shaw.
“At this point, barring some surprising outcome, I’m inclined to support him,” Coghill said.
“Then he has seven votes,” said Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, referring to the minimum needed for confirmation.
Senators are expected to meet Nov. 2 to vote on Revak’s appointment. If Revak is confirmed, Gov. Mike Dunleavy will be required to appoint a replacement to the House seat vacated by Revak, who was elected in 2018 to represent a South Anchorage House district within Birch’s Senate district.
"I learned this today that they were going to come out in support, and I’m just really humbled,” Revak said, adding that he still expects “robust discussion” on Nov. 2.
Under state law and the Alaska Constitution, any legislative vacancies are to be filled by the governor, whose choice must be confirmed by a majority of his or her fellow party members in the relevant legislative chamber.
In this case, there are 12 Republicans in the Senate, so a minimum of seven votes is needed to confirm.
Under long custom, the governor makes his or her selection from a shortlist of candidates picked by local party officials. That tradition is intended to avoid complications in the Legislature, but when Dunleavy followed the procedure this year, the Senate’s Republicans split on his pick and failed to confirm him.
It was the first time in state history that Republican senators rejected the pick of a Republican governor who chose from nominees vetted by local Republican officials.
The split was due to the Permanent Fund dividend. Shaw had voted in favor of a traditional dividend paid using a formula created in 1982 and that still exists in state law. Birch had voted for a “surplus dividend," the $1,606 amount paid to Alaskans this month.
“I didn’t support (Shaw) because of the long-term economy of Alaska and how the PFD plays into it,” Coghill said afterward.
After Shaw’s defeat, the governor picked Revak, who wasn’t on the original shortlist of finalists. In a statement at the time, the governor said Revak’s 2018 election shows he has local support.
Though Revak also voted for a traditional dividend, Coghill said he had “a better approach” to Senate Republicans than Shaw did.
“His language didn’t have edges on it much like the other guy did,” Coghill said.
Giessel said she finds Revak “to be a positive appointment for this role. I think he will be a solid senator, and my personal anticipation is that I will be supporting him.”
She was unwilling to explain why she voted against Shaw but is prepared to vote yes on Revak.
“I’m not willing to answer that question,” she said.
Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, said she spoke with Revak at Kincaid Park while she walked her dog. The dog ran away from her, so they spent the next 45 minutes calling out for the dog, who eventually came running back.
“He seemed like a genuine person open to a variety of opinions,” von Imhof said, adding that while she has “a very positive outlook toward Josh,” she wasn’t willing to commit to a particular vote Tuesday.
Wilson, who voted for Shaw, said he will also vote for Revak.
“That’s where I am, too,” said Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer. “Unless I see some red flags about the qualifications, it’s clear he got elected by half the senate district, so he’s got district support.
“I wish we could do it before Nov. 2,” she said.