Knopp withdraws support from Republican majority, leaving House without permanent speaker

Rep. Gary Knopp. (Photo by House Republicans)

The impasse in the House will continue for another day.

A day after Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, announced that he had given up on his push for a bipartisan coalition and would support a Republican speaker, he withdrew his support from the majority-Republican caucus and instead supported himself in an apparent last-stand effort to build a coalition.

A vote for Rep. Dave Talerico, the Healy Republican favored by the 20-member Republican caucus for a permanent speaker, failed 20-20 without Knopp’s support.

Rep. Louise Stutes, one of the two moderate Republicans in the Democrat-led 19-member coalition, put forward Knopp for permanent speaker, making a switch from the caucuses’ pick of Rep. Bryce Edgmon. Rep. Dan Ortiz was the lone member from the coalition to speak in favor of Knopp.

“Rep. Knopp has been a tireless champion for all Alaskans in standing firmly for the belief that what Alaska needs most in a House is a House that can work together effectively regardless of party affiliation,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz, the Legislature’s lone independent. “That’s kind of important to me because I have no party affiliation.”

Other Republicans asked Knopp for an explanation of his change-of-heart. He said he was approached late last night as a potential alternative to speaker.

“It is very true that yesterday I stated I would be the 21st vote for a Republican nominee. I never said who I would support. It was as of late last night that members approached me and asked me if they could move my name forward. Definitely, I am supportive of a Republican nominee, myself, as I stated,” he said. “It’s completely unexpected and completely what my 20 other members in the Republican caucus were not expecting. There are concerns about the success of this House regardless of party affiliation control. They asked for one more opportunity to move my name forward, and see if there’s any Republican support for me out there.”

There wasn’t.

Though a bipartisan coalition had reportedly been close to a deal on Monday afternoon, with at least four additional Republicans reportedly thinking about crossing over. None materialized in Tuesday’s vote. Instead, multiple Republican members said they couldn’t support Knopp because they said they couldn’t trust him.

“This calls into question the ability of this caucus or this group to come together,” said Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.

The vote for Knopp failed 20-20.

The path ahead for the House is unclear.

The House adjourned for the day without setting a time, which means it will be due back in session on Wednesday–the same day that Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is set to release a budget that’ll include massive cuts and proposed changes to Alaska government.

Without a permanent speaker, the House will continue to be unable to form committees, introduce bills (including the governor’s budget and associated proposals), hold bill hearings or even finally get their office assignments.

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