Local Democrats seek Kerttula replacement

Gov. Palin has yet to take action on Senate seat appointment

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

While Juneau Democrats are awaiting Gov. Sarah Palin's appointment of replacement for former Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, they're preparing to replace Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, if she wins the appointment from Palin.

Juneau Democratic Party spokesman Rich Listowski said party leaders will interview five qualified candidates for the House seat today. The party hopes to develop a list of three candidates to recommend to Palin, should it be needed.

Those being considered include:

• Jeff Bush, a Juneau Assembly member.

• Sara Hannan, an American history and government teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School. Hannan is a former staffer for Sen. Jay Kerttula. She also is an environmental lobbyist.

• Joe Nelson, director of admissions at the University of Alaska Southeast. Nelson is married to Mary Nelson, a former Bethel legislator.

• Jesse Kiehl, a Senate Finance Committee staffer for former Sen. Kim Elton.

• Kim Metcalfe, the Juneau Democratic Party chair. She has recused herself from party duties to participate in the selection process, Listowski said.

After Elton resigned his Senate seat to take a position in the Obama administration advising the Secretary of Interior on Alaska issues, Juneau Democrats broke with tradition of sending three names to Palin and recommended only Beth Kerttula for the appointment.

Palin responded by conducting her own application process, setting a deadline of last Friday for applications and nominations.

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said Monday that Palin has not yet taken action on the appointment.

Under state law, the governor has 30 days to appoint a replacement to a vacant legislative position. The person appointed must reside with the district and belong to the same political party.

Whoever Palin appoints also must be able to be confirmed by a majority of the remaining nine Senate Democrats.

Listowski said Juneau Democrats are trying to be prepared with a House recommendation in case Palin appoints Kerttula because the 90-day Legislative session is rapidly coming to an end.

Democratic leaders will seek to have the broader membership of the Democratic Party approve the final three names selected by party leaders today. A full meeting of the Juneau Democratic District requires at least three days notice, he said.

"We won't call the special meeting until there's a House vacancy," Listowski said.

Juneau Democrats began advertising for a replacement for Kerttula even without a vacancy, and advertised for a replacement for Elton before his appointment was official.

McAllister had no comment about whether Palin found it presumptuous for Democrats to be seeking a replacement for Kerttula at this point.

"I haven't talked to her about it," he said.

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