Alaska House picks freshman Patkotak as temporary speaker

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JUNEAU, Alaska — The Alaska House voted Thursday to elect freshman Rep. Josiah Patkotak as temporary speaker but remained unorganized, with no majority in charge, more than two weeks into the legislative session.

Patkotak, an independent from Utqiagvik, took over for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who had been presiding over House floor sessions for the purpose of electing a temporary speaker. Prior nominations of other members leading to Thursday had failed.

Patkotak was elected 39-0, with Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage shown as absent.

Patkotak has been voting with a 20-member bloc, largely composed of Democrats but that also includes independents and Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak. There also is a 20-member Republican group. Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok, a member of the Republican group, nominated Patkotak on Thursday.

In a statement, released under the coalition header, Patkotak said he remains committed to the “Bush Caucus as we work to achieve a permanent organization in the House.” Lawmakers from rural areas have in the past banded together to advance and protect rural interests as part of such a caucus.

Some rural lawmakers also have previously joined with majority organizations.

Both the bipartisan coalition and House Republicans put out statements Thursday touting Patkotak's selection.

The Associated Press