Accidental text to wrong legislator reveals freshman attempt to organize House majority

Incoming freshman representatives attended an orientation on Thursday at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office (LIO). The orientation included some team building exercises, which clearly worked.

After, several of them went to Matanuska Brewing Company to get dinner. During the dinner they got to talking: Why not organize a House majority made up of the freshman and a few other legislators? As crazy as it sounded, they all started talking about it.

The House remains unorganized more than a month after the election. It takes 21 members in the House to form a majority. After the 2018 and 2020 elections, margins were so close in the House it took a month into session after each election to organize. In both cases, bipartisan majorities formed after some Republicans joined with a majority of Democrats and Independents.

Incoming freshman legislators number 19: nine Republicans, eight Democrats, and two Independents. Two of the Republican freshman are former representatives, Craig Johnson and Dan Saddler. Johnson has been out of the House since 2016, Saddler since 2018.

As the conversation about forming a freshman majority got more serious, they knew they needed at least a few more House members for a majority. Andrew Gray, an incoming freshman Democrat from East Anchorage, meant to extend an offer to Representative Sara Hannan (D – Juneau) to join the majority, but he accidentally sent the text to Representative Sarah Vance (R – Homer). Why Gray has Vance’s phone number is an entirely different mystery. The two may be the most diametrically opposed people in the House.

After this epic wrong text, the group became as they say in poker “pot committed.” To Vance, this information was worth its weight in gold. The fact that she, and the freshman at Matanuska Brewing Company, were aware of this meant it would all get out soon. And it did. Keep reading.

The Landmine has been able to obtain the org chart for the proposed majority. And it’s as loose as you could imagine. Here it is:

Leadership

  • Speaker: Craig Johnson (R)
  • Rules chair: Frank Tomaszewski (R)
  • Majority leader: Representative Sara Hannan (D – Juneau)
  • Finance co-chairs: Dan Saddler (R), Cliff Groh (D), Representative DeLena Johnson (R – Palmer). *Offered to Johnson but if she declines, “It goes to the first House Republican to jump,” according to an unnamed source.

Other Key Positions

  • Finance committee: Ashley Carrick (D), Will Stapp (R), holding positions for others to join. Usually 11 members.
  • State Affairs chair: Andrew Gray (D)
  • Education co-chairs: Maxine Dibert (D), Rebecca Himschoot (I)
  • Labor and Commerce co-chairs: Jesse Sumner (R), Jennie Armstrong (D)
  • Health and Social Services co-chairs: Justin Ruffridge (R), Genevieve Mina (D)
  • Transportation chair: Donna Mears (D)
  • Resources co-chairs: Alyse Galvin (I), Representative Josiah Patkotak (I – Utqiagvik). *Patkotak offered but unclear if he has accepted.
  • Military and Veterans Affairs chair: Jamie Allard (R)
  • Judiciary chair: Representative Calvin Schrage (I – Anchorage)
  • Community and Regional Affairs chair: Julie Coulombe (R)
  • Fisheries chair: Representative Mike Cronk (R – Tok/Northway). *Cronk offered but unclear if he has accepted.
  • Energy chair: Stanley Wright (R)
  • Tribal Affairs chair: CJ McCormick (D). *Unclear of his status.

Even though 17 of the 19 freshman have never served in the House, several have served in local government or worked as legislative staffers. And if Hannan, Johnson, Patkotak, Schrage, and Cronk all join, that would add some experience.

The impact of this accidental text is potentially significant. If the House stays unorganized after session starts, people like Representative Bryce Edgmon (I – Dillingham), a former speaker, become more powerful. Pressure starts mounting to organize. The experienced people wait out the new people and eventually take advantage of the pressure and chaos by offering outs. Someone always blinks.

But this bizarre situation flips things around. Even though a majority has not yet formed, it’s much closer than it has been. And people are talking. The fact that this is now out there means a lot of trust has been broken between old and new guard Republicans and Democrats. Highly partisan members won’t be happy to learn some of their colleagues are talking to the other side about organizing. If this doesn’t pan out, it will make it that much more difficult to form a majority going forward. As a longtime Juneau operative once told me, “When you think it can’t get any crazier, it always does.”

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Ivan R.
1 month ago

“Highly partisan members won’t be happy to learn some of their colleagues are talking to the other side about organizing.” – The worst part about politics. Do you job.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ivan R.
Martin
1 month ago

Who said Alaska politics isn’t entertaining?!

acfak
1 month ago

Every “R” on the list needs to be censured, and removed from their post as a Rhino. Ridiculous. No true conservative would stoop so low as to work with a demoncrat

Floridawoman
1 month ago
Reply to  acfak

I know right? Any politician who works towards compromise should be removed.

Some Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  acfak

I’ll get the torches and pitchforks

Rick
1 month ago
Reply to  Some Guy

Don’t forget the tar and feathers.

Shocked
1 month ago

Allard gets to play with veterans’ issues to try to look legitimate? No. That is not good.

Last edited 1 month ago by Shocked
Shelia
1 month ago

Interesting that some say a republican should not talk to a democrat or vice-versa. In the old days before the great divide we have now all over the country, that is how things got done. Shouting to one another doesn’t work. It just means things that Alaskans need will stay undone.