Johansen seeking to mend GOP fences

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

JUNEAU — State Rep. Kyle Johansen said Monday he’ll work to repair relationships, with the goal of being allowed back into the Republican majority caucus this session.

Johansen, of Ketchikan, and Rep. Charisse Millett, of Anchorage, walked out of the caucus last fall over organizational issues. The caucus voted late Sunday not to readmit them.

But Johansen told The Associated Press on Monday that leadership “indicated the door was still open” and he should continue working to build relationships with fellow lawmakers. He said he intends to do that.

Caucus leadership, through a spokesman, declined to comment Monday. The caucus said in a statement Sunday that members had decided against readmitting the two “at this time.”

Johansen was majority leader last session and was re-elected to the post for the session beginning Tuesday. But House Speaker Mike Chenault has said Johansen gave up the majority leader post when he and Millett walked out of a meeting late last year when efforts to get Millett on certain committees failed.

Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, was elected the new majority leader for the upcoming session.

Johansen and Millett’s decision to walk out left the two without committee assignments and left Johansen, a once-powerful voice for the small city of Ketchikan, to face some angry constituents at home. Ketchikan doesn’t have a large delegation to represent it, like Anchorage does.

Johansen said he wants constituents to know “I’m in Juneau, working hard on all the issues, like I have the last four years, and will continue to do so.” He said he’ll “use the relationships that I have and use the vote that I have on the floor, like 39 other legislators, like I always have.”

Johansen, 43, said he respects the caucus’s decision and plans to go about mending fences while focusing on important issues facing the state and his district. His standing in the caucus doesn’t affect his ability to vote during floor sessions or to file legislation.

He said he’s gotten a list of priorities from his local government, and he’s also very interested in the oil and gas tax issue.

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