Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 but a clear majority still hasn’t formed in the body. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 but a clear majority still hasn’t formed in the body. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Update: Deadlock ends, state House selects a speaker

Kodiak Republican is part of coalition caucus

This story has been updated to include new information.

After 18 days of deadlock, the Alaska House of Representatives elected Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, as speaker of the house.

Stutes is a Republican, but previously caucused with a bipartisan majority. Prior to the session’s start, she had committed to doing the same this year. She had been the lone Republican in a group of 16 Democrats and three independents who’ve been referring to themselves as the House Coalition.

Taking the speaker’s seat, Stutes said she looked forward to bring the body together.

“We all need to walk down the same side of the street,” she said. “Thank you for the confidence you’ve put in me.”

The House adjourned until Friday morning. The next step in organization is committee assignments.

Stutes was voted into the presiding officer role by a single vote.

Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River, cast her vote for Stutes breaking what had been a 20-20 deadlock. Many votes in the House require only a simple majority but many, including appropriations, require higher thresholds.

[Senators wait ‘patiently’]

In a statement shared shortly after the vote, Merrick said she was not joining the 20-member, bipartisan House Coalition but was frustrated by the deadlock. Stutes, a fellow Republican, has worked across party lines in the Legislature for years, Merrick said.

“I have been frustrated by taking the same fruitless votes day after day and I felt we could no longer afford to delay extending the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration, crafting a fiscally conservative budget, and passing the construction jobs bill,” Merrick said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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