Pete Kott chosen to lead House

Therriault heads up Senate

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

After days of negotiations following Tuesday's general election, Republican leaders announced today that Eagle River Republican Pete Kott will be the new speaker of the House, a caucus member said.

Kott and John Harris, a Valdez Republican, were vying to replace Brian Porter as speaker. Porter, a former Anchorage police chief, did not seek re-election to a sixth term.

Anchorage Republican Lisa Murkowski, daughter of Gov.-elect Frank Murkowski, will serve as majority leader, and Nome Democrat Richard Foster will serve as majority whip. Foster is a member of the majority caucus.

Valdez Republican John Harris and Saxman Republican Bill Williams will co-chair the House Finance Committee.

Legislative newcomer Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau was appointed to the State Affairs Committee.

"Any bill affecting state infrastructure is going to go through there," Weyhrauch said, noting he would be in a position to vote against any capital-move measures.

Weyhrauch also was placed on Legislative Council, which conducts the Legislature's business when it isn't in session, and was appointed chairman of the Regulatory Review Committee.

The House majority was expected to make its leadership lineup official this afternoon.

State Sen. Gene Therriault, a Republican from North Pole, was chosen Senate president by his GOP majority caucus, Republicans said Thursday.

Therriault won the caucus support in secret balloting over Wrangell Republican Robin Taylor, who lost a bid earlier this year for the GOP's lieutenant governor nomination.

Therriault, who moved to the Senate two years ago after four terms in the House, will hold the position for two years. Therriault replaces Sen. Rick Halford of Chugiak, who did not seek re-election.

Republicans retained control of the Legislature after the statewide election Tuesday. But the 14-6 Senate majority they held last year could shrink by two seats when this year's vote count is completed.

Senate Republicans picked a leadership team during a meeting Wednesday in Anchorage, but Therriault said final committee selections will not be made until three key races are settled.

In Anchorage, Democrat Gretchen Guess leads Republican Tim Worthen by 88 votes with all the precincts counted. Two other Senate races involve Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis of Anchorage and Democratic Sen. Kim Elton of Juneau, who each lead Republican challengers by more than 400 votes.

The elections will not be final until all the absentee ballots are counted. That should happen by Nov. 29 at the latest, elections officials said.

Sen. Ben Stevens, an Anchorage Republican, was chosen as majority leader to replace Loren Leman. Leman was elected lieutenant governor.

Sen. John Cowdery, an Anchorage Republican, will chair the Rules Committee, which ultimately decides what legislation will go to the floor for a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee, which deliberates on the state budget, will be co-chaired by Sens. Gary Wilken, a Fairbanks Republican, and Lyda Green, a Wasilla Republican. Former co-chairmen Dave Donley lost to Democrat Hollis French on Tuesday and Sen. Pete Kelly did not seek re-election.

Republicans now hold a 12-8 majority in the Senate after Tom Wagoner, elected as a Republican Moderate, joined the caucus, Therriault said. Wagoner defeated incumbent Republican Jerry Ward for a Kenai Peninsula Senate seat. He told caucus members he had changed his party affiliation to Republican.

The upset victory came as Ward was fending off accusations that he lived in Anchorage and after Democrat Pat Hawkins dropped out of the race.

Empire reporter Timothy Inklebarger contributed to this article.

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