Alaska Democratic Party opens applications to replace Dean Westlake

Something might be going on in there.The Alaska State Capitol building as photographed in 2010. (Photo by Kimberly Vardeman/Creative Commons)

The Alaska Democratic Party is opening applications to residents of House District 40 to replace the disgraced Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned last week amid mounting accusations of sexual misconduct from before and after winning elected office.

Any registered Democrats living in House District 40 (which covers the North Slope Borough, Northwest Arctic Borough and some Interior villages) are eligible to submit an application for the seat. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2018.

The three-page application asks some pretty standard questions like the applicant’s willingness to be in session through mid-May and beyond, if they have another job they plan to keep while in office, if they’re willing to do the full financial disclosure required to take office and their thoughts on balancing resource extraction and protection of the environment.

One interesting question from the application asks if the applicant will “commit to caucus with Democrats in the State House if you are ultimately selected for the seat.” We’re guessing that might rule out former Rep. Bennie Nageak, the Democrat who lost to Westlake in a 2016 flawed election over the objection and despite the involvement of GOP-affiliated supporters.

The three names will be forwarded to Gov. Bill Walker on Monday, Jan. 15. That’s the day before the Legislature is scheduled to gavel in, meaning the replacement will not be seated before the start of the session. Instead, Walker will have nine days to select a replacement from the three nominations. The nomination will then need to be confirmed by other Democrats in the House.

Westlake departure

Westlake faced an avalanche of allegations about his current and past behavior with women that started when former legislative aide Olivia Garrett. Garrett went public with claims that Westlake made inappropriate, unwanted sexual advances during the legislative session. Her decision to speak out was followed by six other current and former legislative staffers speaking out in an Anchorage Daily News report, which spurred calls for Westlake’s resignation by the party, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and other individual legislators. Westlake was initially defiant to those calls, stating he would remain in office, but reversed course once further allegations continued to roll in, including acts before he was a legislator and a claim published by KTUU that Westlake fathered a child with a teen in the 1980s.

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