Juneau's Kerttula selected to lead House Minority

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

House Democrats have selected Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula as minority leader for the 26th Alaska Legislature, scheduled to convene in Juneau next week.

Returning as the number two Democrat is Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, who will serve as minority whip.

Democrats met in Anchorage Tuesday to hash out committee and leadership positions for the upcoming session.

“I think we’ve got a very strong caucus,” Kerttula said.

It wasn’t as strong as it might have been, however.

Democrats started with a stronger position after having picked up a net gain of one seat in the November election, to pull within 22-18 in the 40-member body.

Republican Speaker Mike Chenault persuaded three members of Kerttula’s party to join a Republican-led majority, however. Under House rules, that reduced the Minority representation on some committees.

Some other positions will remain the same as last session, with Reps. Les Gara and Harry Crawford, both of Anchorage, continuing to sit on the powerful House Finance Committee. Joining them will be Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Chalkyitsik.

The smaller number of Democrats means Kerttula's caucus will have one less seat on the House Finance Committee, but the committee itself should look much like it did last session.

That's because one of the representatives who switched caucuses, Reggie Joule of Kotzebue, will remain on Finance, this time as a Majority member.

In addition to serving as Minority Leader, Kerttula will serve on the House's Rules Committee and on the Fisheries Committee.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.JUNEAU EMPIRE

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