Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula resigns

Rep. Beth Kerttula during the first House session. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Rep. Beth Kerttula during Tuesday’s House session. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula is resigning her seat to take a position at Stanford University.

The House Minority Leader announced her new job Tuesday afternoon in a speech on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives.

She will be a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford.

Anchorage Rep. Chris Tuck has been selected by the Democratic caucus as the new minority leader. He has previously served as the minority whip. Rep. Max Gruenberg, also of Anchorage, will move from Democratic Floor Leader to minority whip.

Kerttula says the Stanford position is a perfect fit for her background as a legislator, an attorney, and her years of work on coastal zone policy.  As a fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions, she will serve as a legislative expert on ocean issues.

Kerttula says the House Democratic caucus is strong, but it is difficult to leave in the middle of the legislature.

Friday will be Kerttula’s last day on the job. During the vacancy period, the House Minority will have nine members.  The Legislature’s internal rules require the minority have 10 members to be officially recognized.

Before her announcement, she met with Republican House Speaker Mike Chenault about the shrinking minority.

He’s a very thoughtful guy and he’s always been very fair to the minority and recognizes our place and voice.” 

Chenault and Kerttula have scheduled a joint news conference immediately following the House floor session.

This is the second Democrat the House Minority has lost during the 28th Legislature. Last January, Lindsey Holmes of Anchorage changed her party affiliation to Republican.

Kerttula was first elected in 1998, and has served as minority leader since 2006. She had the first legislation on cruise ship pollution.

After she departs the Legislature, the Alaska Democratic Party will provide Gov. Sean Parnell with a list of nominees for the seat. Parnell will have 30 days to make an appointment.

Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl says he is interested in the nomination. He  is legislative assistant for Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan and worked for former Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, when he resigned his seat in 2009 to take a position with the Obama Administration.

At the time, Juneau Democrats put only Kerttula’s name forward, and Kerttula was rejected by then Gov. Sarah Palin.  The appointment was strung out until the end of the session, when Egan was finally selected.  Juneau was unrepresented in the Senate  for the entire session.

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