ANCHORAGE—It was a small, chummy scene at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on Monday when hunting guide Mel Gillis was sworn into fill the vacancy in House District 25.
Gillis was unanimously approved by House Republicans from both the bipartisan majority coalition and the Republican minority caucus to fill the vacancy created when Sen. Josh Revak moved from the House to the Senate to fill a vacancy there. He was sworn in at the Anchorage LIO by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon.
As was expected, Gillis will caucus with the conservative Republican minority caucus.
“I am honored to have been selected to work on behalf of the wonderful people of District 25,” Gillis said in a prepared statement accompanying a press release from House Republicans. “We have a lot of complex issues to cover this year. I am looking forward to meeting the remainder of my colleagues, hearing from my friends and neighbors about the issues that matter most to them, and preparing for the upcoming legislative session.”
In interviews after the ceremony, Gillis told KTUU that he supported paying a full PFD according to statute, living “within our budget” and didn’t support altering oil and gas taxes.
A long-time resident of House District 25, Gillis made his mark on Alaska politics in the 2018 election when put $30,000 into an independent expenditure group supporting Revak in the Republican primary over then-incumbent Rep. Charisse Millett.
Revak won the primary in a landslide and went onto a narrower victory in the general election.
Statewide Democratic candidates Mark Begich and Alyse Galvin both won slim victories in House District 25. When it comes to the recall campaign, 8 percent of voters in House District 25 signed the petition.
In case there was any lingering hope that Dunleavy would call his promise special session to try to deliver on his campaign promise of a full PFD, Gillis’ appointment now puts that out of the question for this year. Special sessions require notice 30 days in advance.
Dunleavy had already pretty much given up on the possibility of calling a special session this year, saying that he wanted to wait for a full Legislature before calling it.
The regular is set to start on Jan. 21, 2020.
Why it matters
Gillis’ membership brings the Minority Republican caucus to 16 members, according to the group’s news release on his appointment.
Under the Legislature’s uniform rules, that would qualify the caucus for an additional seat on five-member and 13-member committees… if there were any five-member of 13-member committees in the House. The membership rules also only apply to standing committees, which have either seven or 11 members.
The caucus would have to get its numbers up to 18 for it to win additional seats on standing committees.