The 12 Senate Republicans rejected Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) today for the vacant District M Senate seat. The vacancy resulted from the tragic death of Senator Chris Birch in early August. Senate Republicans met at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office this afternoon to vote on the matter. The meeting was behind closed doors. Sources confirmed the vote was conducted by secret ballot. Shaw was called in to speak not long after the meeting started. He was in for about 45 minutes.
Shaw told me they asked him about several issues, but the main issue was the PFD. When asked about why he was not approved he told me, “It was not about who I am, it was not about my integrity. It was about my independence. They are looking for a follower, not a leader.”
Representative Sara Rasmussen (R – Anchorage), a fellow freshman representative with Shaw, told me, “Once again the 31st Legislature makes history in a horrible and unprecedented way. Laddie is a man of integrity, honor, and is team oriented. He has demonstrated service to his country and state his entire career. I have never met someone that I would want in my corner more than Laddie Shaw. This is the Senate’s loss and our gain.”
The likely reason he was not approved is his stance on the PFD. When I asked him what he told them about his position on the PFD he said, “We can afford to pay a $3,000 PFD this year, but let’s change the formula to something more reasonable.” Birch was a vocal supporter of a smaller PFD in order to balance the budget and avoid new taxes.
Shaw told me that none of the senators made any eye contact with him when they walked out. He found out he was not approved from the news, but said he did get a call later from Senate President Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage) after the meeting.
In a press release, Senator Cathy Giessel said:
“Today’s vote in no way reflects on the exceptional qualifications of Representative Shaw, a man to whom we all owe much thanks and gratitude for his service to our state and country. Rather, it reflects our commitment to the people of District M and the sanctity of the votes they cast in November.
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.
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.”
This is not the first time Senate Republicans have rejected a nominee for a vacant Senate seat. When then-Senator Mike Dunleavy resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign, Senate Republicans rejected Randall Kowalke, Governor Bill Walker’s pick to replace Dunleavy. Walker went rogue and picked off-list from the three names Republicans sent him. Kowalke held positions far different from those of Dunleavy. Mike Shower was eventually picked and confirmed to fill the seat.
Shaw told me he does not plan on running for the Senate seat next year. Because Birch passed away so early in his term, a special election will be held for the seat next year. The winner of that election will serve out the remaining two years of the term.
Governor Dunleavy has ten days to choose another name to fill the seat. It is unclear whether he will choose from the remaining two names Republicans sent him (Dave Donley and Albert Fogle) or if Republicans will send him additional names. Senate Republicans will again need to vote to confirm the pick. The process Republicans used to choose the three names was very loose. This Landmine article explains that. It’s unclear if that played a role in the vote, but it likely was a factor.
The vote was not public, but likely split 6-6 on the PFD issue. Republican Senators are divided on PFD amount, with six supporting a full PFD and six supporting a reduced PFD. Shaw would have needed seven votes to be confirmed. The vote, done by secret ballot, was likely:
- Senator Mike Shower (R – Wasilla)
- Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla)
- Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer)
- Senator Lora Reinbold (R – Eagle River)
- Senator Mia Costello (Anchorage)
- Senator Peter Micciche (R – Soldotna)
- Senator Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage)
- Senator John Coghill (R – North Pole)
- Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage)
- Senator Gary Stevens (R – Kodiak)
- Senator Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks)
- Senator Bert Stedman (R – Sitka)