The Alaska Senate Republicans rejected on Thursday Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s choice to fill a vacant Senate seat.
The senators blocked the confirmation of Anchorage Republican Rep. Laddie Shaw. The seat became vacant in August when Sen. Chris Birch died suddenly from heart complications.
Shaw said he doesn’t feel he was judged on his merits.
“My reaction is that they were looking for basically a clone of Sen. Birch,” Shaw said. “And I don’t know if they appreciated my honesty and independence.”
The Senate Republicans did not announce the vote breakdown, but Shaw said he believes it was a tie among the 12 Senate Republicans. A majority is needed to confirm. The vote came after the senators interviewed Shaw.
“They grilled me,” Shaw said. “It was like an inquisition. And they came from every direction. And we figured we were going into this with a 6-6 vote, and we came out of it with a 6-6 vote.”
Shaw supports a $3,000 permanent fund dividend this year — the full amount under a 1982 state law. Opponents of a full dividend have said it would require the state to violate another law that limits the amount that can be drawn from permanent fund earnings each year.
“They did not confirm me basically on one issue — on one point of criteria,” Shaw said. “Nothing to do with my integrity, nothing to do with my service to the state of Alaska, nothing to do with who I am as an individual representing my community. None of that came into play. It came down to my stand on a $3,000 dividend.”
Shaw said he hopes Dunleavy sticks to his principles in who he appoints to the Senate.
Senate President Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said the vote doesn’t reflect on Shaw’s qualifications, which she said were exceptional. She said the voters who elected Birch had shown support for changing the dividend formula.
“The duty of the Senate is to confirm a replacement to Senate District M, with deference to the views of the late Sen. Birch and, most importantly, deference to those of all the people in the district that he served,” she said.
Giessel emphasized that Birch was a leader in changing the dividend during his two years in the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate.
“He displayed strong leadership during his tenure in the House on reforming the dividend and protecting the permanent fund,” she said. “He proudly took the issue directly to voters during the recent election.”
Six Republican senators support a $3,000 PFD, while six oppose it. The Legislature passed, and Dunleavy signed, a budget with a $1,600 dividend. Dunleavy has said he would call the Legislature into a third special session solely to add another $1,400 in dividend payments.
Shaw was elected to the House last November. He is a former Navy SEAL and Alaska State Troopers academy instructor. He’s chairman of the House Military and Veterans’ Affairs Special Committee, despite being a member of the Republican House minority caucus.
Dunleavy has 10 days to appoint another choice to the seat.