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Many ways to count new legislators

This year's 'newcomers' include rep appointed in 2012, two senators moving over from House

Posted: January 15, 2013 - 12:01am

How many new legislators are there in the 28th Alaska State Legislature?

That depends on how you want to count them.

There are 17 incoming representatives and senators who will be sitting and voting as members of their respective chambers when the legislative session begins Tuesday afternoon who did not during last year's session.

But one of those new representatives, Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, began serving in the House of Representatives as part of the 27th Legislature. She was appointed to the House after then-Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, died in office, and then she won election to a full term in November.

“I think I’m my own unique category,” said Hughes Monday, as to whether she sees herself as a returning member or a newcomer. “And it’s been kind of funny because sometimes I’m introduced with the incumbents; sometimes I’m introduced with the new ones. So I’m my own special category.”

Because Hughes’ appointment came after the House adjourned sine die last spring, Tuesday’s vote for Speaker of the House will be her first opportunity to vote on the House floor as a representative of her district.

Even still, Hughes held office for most of 2012. Removing her from the list of newcomers brings the number of new legislators down to 16.

Two senators-elect from Anchorage, Democrat Berta Gardner and Republican Anna Fairclough, were also in the previous Legislature. They are moving up from the House to the Senate following the results of last November’s election.

“I think the culture of the Senate is very different than the House, and in some ways, I think that is a greater difference than the culture between the two caucuses,” Gardner said, referring to the minority and majority caucuses in each chamber. “And that’s always been known. In the House, they call the Senate ‘the dark side.’ I think that might be a little bit overboard, but we’ll see.”

If Gardner and Fairclough are counted as returning legislators rather than members-elect, that makes for 14 newcomers.

But that number includes a couple of veteran legislators back from hiatus, like Rep.-elect Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage. LeDoux served in the House from 2005 to 2009 as a representative from Kodiak, where she lived before moving to Anchorage in 2009.

LeDoux was clear Monday that she sees herself as a returning legislator, not somebody who is new to the job.

“They’re now using scanners instead of keys to open the Capitol doors, so that seems to be a change — and outside of that, I’m not sure much of anything’s changed,” LeDoux said of the contrast between the Legislature as she left it four years ago and the Legislature to which she will be sworn in Tuesday.

Also returning after an absence is Sen.-elect Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, who served in both the House and Senate before leaving office in 2003.

That makes 12 who are entirely new to serving in the Legislature this year.

Not included in the count is Rep. Lindsey Holmes, R-Anchorage. Holmes has been in office since 2007, but she switched her party affiliation from Democratic to Republican on Saturday, making her a new face among House Republicans this year.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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