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GOP penalizes ringleaders of failed coalition

Weyhrauch wins committee chairmanship

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The House majority has punished the Republican ringleaders of a failed bipartisan coalition that tried to seize control of the Alaska House of Representatives earlier this month.

But other Republicans, such as Juneau Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, gained from the organizational shake-up.

The Republican majority stripped Anchorage Republicans Nancy Dahlstrom and Mike Hawker of their committee chairmanships in the House Oil and Gas Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, respectively. Both were members of the coalition made up of 13 Democrats and some 12 Republicans.

The Ways and Means chairmanship will now go to Weyhrauch, who also will serve on the powerful House Finance Committee.

Dahlstrom instead will serve as head of the House Committee on Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and as a co-chairman of the Joint Armed Services Committee. Hawker also maintained his position on the House Finance Committee but will not serve as chairman of any committees. Neither returned phone calls to the Empire.

Hawker's staff said he "has no interest in commenting on it further."

House committee chairmanships

Community and Regional Affairs: Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, and Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna

Education: Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake

Economic Development, Trade and Tourism: Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Anchorage

Finance: Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage

Fisheries: Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Kodiak, and Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines

Health, Education and Social Services: Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell

Joint Armed Services Committee: Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Anchorage

Labor and Commerce: Tom Anderson

Legislative Budget and Audit: Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage

Military and Veterans Affairs: Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage

Oil and Gas: Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla

Regulation Review: Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage

Resources: Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks.

State Affairs: Rep. Paul Seaton

Transportation: Rep. Jim Elkins, R-Ketchikan, and Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer

Ways and Means: Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau

Weyhrauch, an attorney, said he was never a member of the coalition and was preparing for a trial and a hunting trip when the group was formed earlier this month. He said he did not seek out the Ways and Means chairmanship, which oversees proposed revenue measures for the state.

"They wanted to have somebody who has looked at revenue measures in the past and can look at those revenue measure in the context of our purported surplus," Weyhrauch said. "I said purported because we're not sure if there will be a surplus."

Weyhrauch would have served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee under the coalition, a position that will continue to be held by Rep. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.

Former House Speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, who would have maintained his position as speaker under the coalition, was removed by the Republicans this weekend from his chairmanship of the Legislative Council and his membership on the House Rules Committee.

Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, who was selected earlier this month as Speaker of the House by his Republican colleagues, said the Republican caucus held meetings Friday in Anchorage, giving coalition Republicans a chance to explain their involvement in the attempted coup.

"We just had a little heart-to-heart talk about the caucus and their loyalty," Harris said on Monday, giving few details about the closed-door meetings.

Harris said he did not know which Republicans led the coalition to unseat him but added that Kott, Hawker and Dahlstrom were the only Majority members punished.

"All I care about is that we're all united and focused on the same common goal," he said.

Harris said he has not spoken with Kott, one of two Republicans who did not participate in the weekend meeting. The other, representative-elect Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Kodiak, was traveling outside of the country.

"The caucus more or less decided if Kott wants to be part of our group, he'll have to explain why he did what he did and why he wants to join us now," Harris said, adding that if Kott returns to the fold, he might still be given some committee assignments. If he doesn't return to the caucus, Kott could have some of his office staff taken away. Kott could not be reached for comment.

"It's really his choice," Harris said.

Harris said committee assignments for Republicans are near completion and could be finalized by the end of the week.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneau empire.com.



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