Anchorage Sen. Chris Birch dead after apparent heart attack

Sen. Chris Birch speaks during the joint floor session to override the governor's vetoes on July 10, 2019. (Photo by Alaska Senate Majority.)

Anchorage Sen. Chris Birch reportedly died of a reported heart attack on Wednesday night, taking the Legislature, the Alaska political community and the state at large by shock and sadness.

Birch, a Republican, joined the Alaska Legislature after a long career on the Anchorage Assembly with a win in House District 26 in 2016. He advanced to the Senate in the following 2018 election, filling the Senate seat vacated by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

The 68-year-old retired engineer quickly became a prominent member of the Alaska Legislature and was part of a group of Senate Republicans who argued in favor of a more moderate approach to cuts this year.

Birch is survived by his wife, Pam, two children and four grandchildren.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, released a statement remembering Birch as a stand-out senator.

“This is a devastating loss to our state. Chris was a good, principled man of character, one who treated everyone with dignity and respect,” she said. “You could always count on him to stand up for what’s right, regardless of the political consequences. His absence in the Capitol will be keenly felt by all who had the privilege to know him.”

Senate Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, also released a statement fondly remembering Birch as a colleague and as a friend.

“Chris’ passing came as shock to us all. He was extremely fit, in both mind and body. Chris never met a hiking trail he didn’t like and could often be found on top of a mountain range, rain or shine,” she said. “He carried that same mindset to the Senate floor and didn’t shy away from the tough topics. Instead, he worked hard for Alaska’s best future, while always maintaining a positive outlook. He was my colleague, my hiking partner, my dear friend. I will miss him deeply.”

State law requires the governor appoint a replacement to fill the vacancy within 30 days. Typically, the appointee is selected by a slate put forward by the local political party. The appointment must be confirmed by elected Republicans in the Senate.

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