Senate Republicans reject Rep. Shaw, say appointee should mirror late Sen. Birch on PFD

Laddie Shaw on election night 2018. (Photo used under Creative Commons license courtesy Paxson Woelber, The Alaska Landmine.

In an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans have rejected Republican Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s appointment of Republican Rep. Laddie Shaw to the Senate.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, announced the vote this afternoon, explaining that Shaw fell short of the seven votes needed to be confirmed to the chamber. She went on to say that whoever fills the seat should mirror the late Sen. Chris Birch’s politics on the Permanent Fund Dividend.

“Senator Chris Birch was one of – if not the – most energetic proponents of updating the dividend formula. He displayed strong leadership during his tenure in the House on reforming the dividend and protecting the Permanent Fund and proudly took the issue directly to voters during the recent election,” Giessel said in a prepared statement.

“The duty of the Senate is to confirm a replacement to District M with deference to the views of the late Senator Birch and, most importantly, those of all the people in the district he served.”

The Senate currently has 12 Republicans and is split 6-6 when it comes to the $3,000 dividend supported by the governor. Shaw would have delivered Dunleavy a seventh vote in favor of the $3,000 dividend, though the overall balance on the $3,000 dividend would come to 10-10.

The vote among Senate Republicans was 6-6.

Birch opposed the full payout, at times arguing in favor of a small dividend that allowed the state’s budget to be balanced without significant cuts or significant new revenue. Dunleavy has 10 days to appoint a new person to the position, setting up a showdown with Senate President Giessel and her allies.

Amid a questionable nomination process, local Republicans selected Rep. Shaw and two other Republican men over Birch’s daughter Tali Birch Kindred last month. Critics of the process said it violated the party’s own open meetings rules and questioned the fairness of allowing Shaw and others to vote on the process and sit in on the candidate interviews.

The rejection of the appointment is the first that involved only Republicans from nomination to appointment to confirmation, according to the Anchorage Daily News. “Never before have Republican senators rejected the pick of a Republican governor who chose from nominees vetted by local Republican officials,” wrote James Brooks.

Governors have 30 days to fill a legislative vacancy once its opened by appointing a person of the same political party. Though not required by law, the governor has typically deferred to local party members to put together a list of nominees for the position. The appointee must be confirmed by a majority of the legislators belonging to that party. Whoever is ultimately appointed will serve until the 2020 elections.

Mixed results

It’s not the first time that Senate Republicans have been at the center of appointment controversy. When Dunleavy resigned from office last year to pursue the governorship, former Gov. Bill Walker went off-list when the list prepared by local Republicans came up lacking. Republicans immediately rejected Randall Kowalke before the district went back to the drawing board and put together a list that was more palatable to Walker.

Kowalke took to Twitter today in light of Shaw’s rejection, writing, Been there!”

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