Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy announced Sunday that he picked Mel Gillis, a hunting guide who bankrolled an independent expenditure group backing Rep. Josh Revak’s 2018 run for state House, to fill the seat vacated by Revak’s move to the Senate.
Gillis was one of three candidates put forward by House District 25 Republicans to replace Revak, who was recently sworn into the Alaska Senate to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Chris Birch’s death. Gillis’ nomination to the House still must be confirmed by House Republicans before he can be sworn in.
“He has an established, positive relationship with the people in House District 25 and will be able to hit the ground running on the complex issues that will be front and center in the upcoming legislative session,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement. “I am proud to appoint Mel to this position and know that he will serve with integrity and represent the best interests of the people in House District 25.”
A 55-year resident of Alaska, Gillis has been a dependable financial booster for mostly Republican candidates according to records from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. During the 2018 race, he made contributions to Dunleavy, Revak, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, Sen. Chris Birch, the Alaska Republican Party and Reps. Laddie Shaw, Sara Rasmussen and Lance Pruitt.
His most notable political activity in 2018, though, came as a $30,000 contribution to an independent expenditure group backing Revak’s election over incumbent Rep. Charisse Millett. Let’s Back Revak was run by political blogger Jeff Landfield and was active in both the Republican primary and the general election.
It was a head-turning amount of money to put into a House race, but the result was a nearly 15-point upset of the incumbent Millett. Revak won the general election race over Democrat Pat Higgins by 4 points.
Now Gillis will have the opportunity to fill the seat he helped Revak win.
In a prepared statement, he said it would be “the honor of a lifetime” to be confirmed to the seat.
“I would like to thank Governor Dunleavy for the confidence he has placed in me by appointing me to serve as State Representative for House District 25. I would also like to thank the other folks who put their names forward. It takes a lot of guts. They’re great folks, well qualified, and I consider them my friends,” he said. “It would be the honor of a lifetime to serve my neighbors and this great state as a Representative. I look forward to meeting with the House Republicans to discuss my confirmation. I’m also looking forward to meeting and working on behalf of all my neighbors in the Abbott Loop area.”
Why it matters
Given the House Republicans’ allegiance to the governor, it’s unlikely that there will be much trouble in the way of Gillis’ confirmation to the House. Still, his role in knocking off the minority’s former leader might bring with it some baggage.
Politics-wise, Gillis’ appointment isn’t likely to shake up the House. Unlike the Senate, there haven’t been many ultra-narrow battles that could be swayed by a single seat.
Democrats and other political watchers will likely be breathing a sigh of relief that the governor didn’t pick inflammatory Democrat-turned-Republican Forrest McDonald.