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Parnell picks former Gatto aide to fill House seat

Posted: May 1, 2012 - 11:01pm

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell has chosen a former legislative aide to the late-Rep. Carl Gatto to serve the remainder of Gatto’s term.

Parnell announced his selection of Shelley Hughes as Gatto’s replacement on Tuesday while appearing via video at a gathering in Palmer. His choice still must be confirmed by a majority of state House Republicans.

Gatto died in April at age 74 from complications related to cancer.

Hughes had earlier filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, signaling her intention to run for his seat. She said she had gotten the blessing of members of his family. Hughes, 54, served as an aide to Gatto from 2003 to 2005.

Hughes’ name was one of three sent by Republicans from Gatto’s district in Palmer to Parnell to consider. The others were David Eastman and Marvin Yoder.

Parnell said all three, whom he interviewed, were qualified to do the work. But he said he believed Hughes could begin the work without on-the-job training. He said she also has a desire to serve the district and the people of the district.

Hughes, who describes herself as a conservative Republican on her campaign website, has said her first career was as a busy stay-at-home mom. Her second included working for Gatto and as the government affairs director for the Alaska Primary Care Association from 2005 to 2011. She resigned from that job to run for office.

Hughes received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alaska in 2002 and is affiliated with organizations including the Alaska Outdoor Council, the National Rifle Association, the Alaska State Fair and the Resource Development Council, according to a biography released by the governor’s office.

Hughes said that while she’s mindful and respectful of Gatto’s legacy, she plans to chart her own course.

She said she’s been getting “robust support” as she’s been out in the community. And she noted she is already hearing from local residents that infrastructure is important in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which, according to the 2010 census, was the fastest-growing region of Alaska between 2000 and 2010.

She also said she supports efforts to change Alaska’s oil-tax structure and move forward on a natural gas pipeline project.

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