JUNEAU — Republican former House Speaker Louise Stutes has joined the largely Democratic minority caucus after being rebuffed by the GOP-led majority.
The House organized on the third day of the legislative session with a 23-member majority that included 19 Republicans, plus two independents and two Democrats from the Bush Caucus. The minority had 15 members, including 12 Democrats and three independents.
Stutes and Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman were not in either caucus. She said at the time that she was “taking it a day at a time, to see how things play out.”
Stutes served as House speaker for the previous Legislature. She first joined the bipartisan majority coalition in 2016, which then governed in the state House for the next six years across three successive legislatures.
In recent days, Stutes had sought to join the current Republican-led majority caucus. She was rebuffed.
Anchorage Republican Rep. Craig Johnson said Stutes was told Wednesday that the majority was large enough as is. Committee and leadership positions had already been decided, he said.
House minority members met Wednesday evening to formally invite Stutes to join their ranks as whip. As a member of the minority’s leadership team, Stutes will be entitled to more staff than if she had served in the House alone.
Stutes said in a prepared statement that she was pleased to join the minority coalition, which is united behind increasing school funding, not overdrawing the Permanent Fund and paying a sustainable dividend. Stutes will continue serving on the House Transportation and Fisheries committees.
“I’m looking forward to continuing our work together for Alaska’s future,” she said.
Eastman, who recently prevailed in a legal challenge over whether his membership in the far-right Oath Keepers should keep him from serving in the Legislature, is viewed as difficult to work with by some lawmakers. He has not been invited to join either caucus, and is only entitled to one legislative aide.