Juneau Democratic Senator Dennis Egan has joined the Republican majority. He will be chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and a member of the Legislative Council.
In the last legislature, he was a member of the Senate Bi-Partisan Working Group, a coalition of 10 Democrats and six Republicans.
The new senate has organized under Railbelt Republicans and no coastal Alaska senators are in leadership positions. Egan says Southeast Alaska needs to be represented.
“In my own thinking, I was trying to save Southeast. We lost a senator and we have to have a voice in there and we have to have more than one,” he says.
Egan’s Senate District P has expanded from the Capital City to include Petersburg, Gustavus, and Skagway.
Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman – also a member of the former Senate coalition – has joined the majority caucus. But where Stedman was once co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the new organization has offered him chairmanship of the Health and Social Services committee.
“You know, Bert’s not leadership anymore. Of course, I’m not leadership. But we have to have a voice, because we have very substantial issues that are going to come before us that are going to affect the residents of Southeast Alaska,” he says. “And we’re different than the rest of the state.
Egan was a member of Senate Finance, but now that committee has no Southeast Alaska senators.
The Democrat called joining the Republican caucus a “gut-wrenching” decision. He says he has made no commitments and is not beholden to the leadership for any votes.
In the new Republican majority, Egan, Stedman, and Kodiak’s Gary Stevens are the only senators representing coastal communities.
As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Egan will be working on Southeast Alaska marine transportation issues. He says his position on the Legislative Council is very important because major issues affecting the Capital City will come before the council in the next session, including major repairs to the state capitol building.