Independent Rep. Ortiz is calling on fellow legislators to get on board with Rep. Knopp’s bipartisan coalition

Rep. Dan Ortiz (Photo by Alaska House Majority Coalition).

The Alaska House’s sole independent legislator to survive the 2018 elections, Ketchikan’s Rep. Dan Ortiz, is urging fellow legislators to consider joining the bipartisan coalition proposed by Kenai Republican Rep. Gary Knopp.

Ortiz sent a letter to legislators this morning outlining his support for working across party lines. A copy of the letter was provided to The Midnight Sun, and Ortiz has not yet been available to respond to our request for comment.

“Our government was not established by one party or the other, nor one region. It takes people on both sides of the aisle, and all parts of our great state, coming together and putting the needs of Alaskans first,” he wrote. “I urge all of us to put aside party differences to form a coalition that’s united in acting for the best interests of all Alaskans.”

Ortiz was re-elected on a 20-point margin in a head-to-head race with a Republican during the November elections.

Over the weekend Knopp broke away from party line Republicans, who claimed a 21-member majority the day after the election, arguing that the state would be better served if legislators work across party lines instead of toeing them. He pointed out that the 21-member majority, which gives any one member the ability to effectively veto legislation, was destined to fail mid-session.

He announced an effort to organize a bipartisan coalition that was more balanced than the current coalition, which was formed with 17 Democrats, three Republicans and two independents. Knopp hasn’t tipped his hand at what other legislators may sign on with his plan, telling Alaska Public Media that there’s a fear of retribution among Republicans for stepping out of line.

“There are other legislators on my side of the aisle who acknowledge and know that a coalition should happen, needs to happen and won’t step forward because of fear of retribution from the party and constituents as well,” Knopp said. “And it’s a genuine fear and … I guess (I have) a different position. I’m not worried about the next election”

With his letter, which quotes both the U.S. Sen. John McCain and President Abraham Lincoln, Ortiz is the first legislator to endorse Knopp’s plan.

“I envision a coalition in which members are committed first and foremost to compromise for the common good, rather than for the interests of our political parties and other dividing forces,” he wrote.

He said his endorsement is based on his own personal experience as an independent.

“At the end of the day we are beholden to our constituents, all of them. The needs of our districts are as diverse as our state, but with a strong independent House we can achieve them,” he wrote. “Although I may be the only member with an ‘I’ next to my name, my experience serving in the legislature has shown me that we are more effective when we all work across party lines. In the most recent session, we were only able to pass important pieces of legislation when members of both caucuses pressed the yea vote.”

Those party line-crossing votes include House Bill 331, which reformed the state’s costly oil and gas tax credit program, and Senate Bill 26, which restructured the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for government. Both required votes from the predominantly Democratic House coalition and the Republican minority to pass the House.

The letter

To my fellow House members,

Events over the past week have forced open the doors of opportunity. I respect Representative Knopp for recognizing the fragility of a small, partisan majority. Our government was not established by one party or the other, nor one region. It takes people on both sides of the aisle, and all parts of our great state, coming together and putting the needs of Alaskans first.

I urge all of us to put aside party differences to form a coalition that’s united in acting for the best interests of all Alaskans. I envision a coalition in which members are committed first and foremost to compromise for the common good, rather than for the interests of our political parties and other dividing forces.

The words of late Senator John McCain ring true: “The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems… I hope we can rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by doing so better serve the people who elected us.”

At the end of the day we are beholden to our constituents, all of them. The needs of our districts are as diverse as our state, but with a strong independent House we can achieve them. Although I may be the only member with an ‘I’ next to my name, my experience serving in the legislature has shown me that we are more effective when we all work across party lines. In the most recent session, we were only able to pass important pieces of legislation when members of both caucuses pressed the yea vote.

As Abraham Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, “We are not enemies, but friends.” We ultimately strive for the same goal: the betterment of Alaska – an Alaska that is safe, healthy, and prosperous. As we begin organizing for this upcoming term, I appeal to “the better angels of our nature” and ask that we stand united in our shared commitment to our State. Let’s get to work.

Respectfully,

Representative Dan Ortiz

More from TMS

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*