Kerttula awaits Palin's Senate appointment

Governor does not have to heed Democratic Party nomination but does have to select a Democrat to replace Sen. Kim Elton

Posted: Friday, March 06, 2009

Rep. Beth Kerttula said it was "humbling" to get the sole nomination of the Juneau Democratic Party to replace Sen. Kim Elton in the Senate.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

"It was humbling to have that kind of support, and I appreciate it," said the Juneau Democrat.

Palin has not said what her plans for the appointment are. Juneau Democratic Party chairwoman Kim Metcalfe said the formal notification of the party's recommendation did not happen until Thursday morning.

Under state law, Palin has 30 days from Elton's resignation last Monday to appoint a replacement. She does not have to heed the recommendation of the Democratic Party, but has to select a Democrat for the appointment.

Legislative observers say it is unusual, but not unheard of, for the party to nominate only a single candidate to the governor but that a slate of three candidates is usually the norm.

"That was up to the Democratic leadership," Kerttula said.

She said that given the quality of the candidates, she'd have been fine to have three nominees.

"If there had been three people, I would have been equally as honored," she said.

Metcalfe said the party acted as quickly as possible because the recently shortened legislative session is ongoing without a Senator from Juneau. The party began advertising to fill the position even before Elton was appointed to be the U.S. Department of Interior's Alaska representative.

Kerttula said she sent Palin a letter Thursday morning seeking the appointment following the party's nomination, but does not expect immediate action from the governor.

Palin will be attending a service for Matanuska Susitna Borough Mayor Kurt Menard, a long-time family friend who died this week, she said.

Senate Working Group spokesman Tim Barry said bills introduced by Elton before his resignation remain active, and Elton's staff will continue working on those bills and other constituent concerns until they have a new Senator.

Elton held a coveted seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, as well as chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee and other positions. Barry said no decision had been yet made about what positions the new senator would hold.

Kerttula also is unsure.

"I can't even speculate on that," she said.

If Palin chooses to appoint another Democrat to the Senate seat, Kerttula said she would likely run for the position, which will be up for grabs in the next election.

"Yes, I think I would," she said of running. "Right now I think I would."

If Kerttula was selected by Palin, the governor would then have 30 days to replace her.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or

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