Senator Mike Shower (R – Wasilla) and Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer) are not happy they were left out of the new Senate majority. After the Senate announced their new organization at the end of November, Shower and Hughes were relegated to a three-member minority with Senator Robb Myers (R – North Pole).
According to the Alaska State Legislature’s Uniform Rules, a Senate minority must have at least five members to be a recognized minority for committee positions. The new 17-member Senate majority is made up of nine Democrats and eight Republicans.
Shower and Hughes have been extremely critical of their fellow Mat-Su Valley colleague, Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla), for joining the new 17-member bipartisan majority. On December 5, 2022 a kind of town hall meeting was held in the Valley. It was organized by Hughes and its real purposed was to attack and put pressure on Wilson for joining with Democrats to form the new majority. Shower, Hughes and several other Mat-Su legislators were at the meeting. Wilson did not attend.
Shower and Hughes have both made social media posts and public comments expressing anger and frustration with the new majority. Their main criticism has been that the Republicans who joined empowered Democrats.
But during the last four years, Shower and Hughes tried multiple times to organize a majority with Senate Democrats. Shower, who was made chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee when Republicans organized a majority the day before the start of the 2021 session, has been at odds with many of his fellow Republicans over many issues, the amount of the dividend being the biggest. Hughes, who served as majority leader the last two years, has also been at odds with many of her fellow Republicans over the same issues.
The Senate has been deeply divided on the amount of the dividend the last four years. The division has not been partisan, making it difficult for the Republican majority to pass a budget. They often had to rely on minority Democrat votes to pass a budget.
Shower’s frustrations were visibly evident in 2019 when Republican Cathy Giessel was Senate president. One day in the halls of the Capitol a visibly upset Shower asked Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Anchorage) if his caucus had room for Shower. It’s highly irregular for a member of a majority to publicly ask if they could defect to the minority. As things worsened amongst Republicans, Shower got more serious about initiating a mid-session coup by organizing with Senate Democrats.
While this was an open secret in Juneau, no one would speak publicly or on the record about it. But Senator Tom Begich (D – Anchorage), who has served as minority leader since 2019, is now on record with the Landmine about Shower and Hughes’ past attempts to organize with Senate Democrats. Begich told the Landmine:
It’s surprising to me to hear that Senators Hughes and Shower are upset with Senator Wilson joining with other Republicans and Democrats to try and govern. They have both reached out to members of my Democratic caucus over the past four years – when they were not satisfied with the actions of some of their own majority – to explore the possibility of reorganizing with the Democrats. Those offers were politely declined but those were serious discussions.
This vilification of folks like Senator Wilson now working with Democrats really makes no sense since members of my caucus have also assisted both of them, when asked, on key issues over these past years. We should be glad, in this increasingly polarized world, that Democrats and Republicans are willing to work together, not pretend that its something that’s never been done and is some kind of betrayal, when they themselves have entertained the same idea.
Senators Shower and Hughes did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Update: Since this article was published Senator Hughes, who was on vacation, provided a response. She says she had nothing to do with planning the event in the Valley and that it’s routine to have a town hall before session. I attended the event and a significant portion of it was about Wilson joining a majority with Democrats. She also said she has “not once” criticized or singled out Wilson. Though multiple people have told me otherwise. She provided the following comment about her past attempts to organize with Democrats:
My interest was for a very SHORT TERM caucus and for a very SPECIFIC PURPOSE (settle PFD issue) with just the THREE pro-PFD Democrats. That would’ve given us 11 with Senator Micciche and Senator Wilson. I thought it then likely that Senator Hoffman and Senator Stevens would join and maybe one or two other Republicans (Click Bishop and Josh Revak seemed to be possibilities) so we would have had 9-11 Republicans and 4 Democrats. That’s a big difference between that and what’s happened now. It’s apples and oranges.
If you care about journalistic integrity, you’ll significantly rewrite your article based on all the accurate information I’ve provided you.
If you’re playing a tune to charm a particular audience – one that audience wants to hear – trying to win brownie points with certain people, and attempting to be in majority leadership’s good graces to gain favor and access instead of accurately and fairly reporting, then I suppose you will not update your article. It’ll be interesting to observe what you do.