House appointee’s oath of office stirs confusion among state lawmakers

Sharon Jackson is running in Alaska’s Republican primary for lieutenant governor. She was in Ketchikan to campaign and meet area residents. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

Sharon Jackson is Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s pick to fill a vacant Eagle River House seat. She took an apparently unofficial oath of office Wednesday that preceded the House cancelling its floor session. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

The second day of the legislative session Wednesday took an unusual turn.

A day after the Alaska House of Representatives became stuck on how to swear Sharon Jackson into office, Jackson tried to take matters into her own hands.

Jackson walked across the street from the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau to the Dimond Courthouse, where she took what appeared to be an unofficial “oath of office.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were caught off guard when Anchorage Republican Rep. Joshua Revak posted a two-minute video on social media of the oath.

(Source: Rep. Josh Revak’s Facebook page)

Republican leader Dave Talerico issued a written statement.

“While the sentiment of this effort to get Ms. Jackson seated quickly is appreciated, the House Republicans anticipate the official swearing-in of Ms. Jackson to take place on the House floor,” Talerico said.

Talerico said House Republicans look forward to welcoming Jackson to the body as soon as possible.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat, said there were productive talks before the unofficial oath.

“What happened today with what’s essentially, I would call a prank of sorts, just became a distraction to all of that,” he said.

Edgmon said the Legislature’s nonpartisan legal advisers say Jackson’s oath on Wednesday won’t count. Edgmon said she should be sworn in after there’s a temporary speaker.

The video of Jackson’s unofficial oath starts with an introduction by Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman.

Eastman later said Jackson’s constituents are legally and constitutionally entitled to representation.

“I find it ironic that now, when it’s time to swear in a representative from the opposing party, suddenly those rules are more important than our state law,” he said of House Democrats.

The House cancelled a scheduled floor session on Wednesday. It’s now scheduled to meet Thursday morning.

The House has been unable to agree on a temporary speaker to take over for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer. Normally, a permanent speaker is elected on the first day of the session. But neither side has a majority.

Nineteen Republican representatives — as well as Jackson — want a Republican-led majority. Sixteen Democrats — as well as Republicans Louise Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux, and independent Dan Ortiz — are the remnants of last year’s majority. And Kenai Republican Gary Knopp wants a majority with a balance between the two parties.

Alaska has a lot going on right now.

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