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'Love Caucus' gets spots on committees after all

  • Author: Patti Epler
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published January 18, 2011

The House leadership handed out committee assignments Tuesday and -- surprise! -- the two GOP members who had been dissed by their colleagues were tossed a political bone of sorts. Although House Speaker Mike Chenault had said Reps. Charisse Millett and Kyle Johansen would not be given committee assignments even if they were allowed back into the majority caucus (which they weren't) leadership still gave them each a seat on committees.

Johansen, who had been a rising GOP star and was House Majority Leader until the dust up this summer that claimed his political fortune, was allowed on the state affairs committee. Millett was given a seat on the health and social services committee.

Dubbed the "Love Caucus" by local wags, Millett and Johansen have what has been described as a close personal relationship. Although some speculation has the pair (both divorced) as a couple, Johansen specifically denied a romantic link when questioned by constituents at a town hall in his hometown of Ketchikan late last year. He said they are just good friends.

Still, political insiders couldn't figure out what else would have motivated him to back a political hardball move by Millett at a caucus retreat earlier this summer. He ended up losing his leadership role and most of his political status. Community leaders called for him to resign.

Millett had wanted the chair the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. Caucus members decided to give that spot to Rep. Mike Hawker. Then she wanted on the Finance Committee but that spot went to a rural Democrat. Millett and Johansen departed the meeting in a huff.

The two spent weeks trying to make up to their colleagues but to no avail. On Sunday, the 26-member (22 Republicans and four Democrats) met to consider their request to be let back in. But they needed 14 votes and didn't get enough.

But when committee assignments were announced Tuesday just after the session opened for its 90-day run, their names were on the list.

As of Tuesday, Millett's office, which is right next to the press room probably to her dismay, was pretty bare. She did have one staffer turning reporters away with the admonition that she probably isn't going to want to talk about any of this.

Contact Patti Epler at patti(at)alaskadispatch.com

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