Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, and Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, sit next to each other after Knopp voted not to confirm Talerico as Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, and Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, sit next to each other after Knopp voted not to confirm Talerico as Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Knopp speaks about ‘shock and awe’ of floor session

Stay up to date with live updates from inside the Capitol.

1:55 p.m.

Rep. Gary Knopp “is not siding with anybody” still. In an interview with the Empire, after the floor session, the Kenai Republican said he is “still an island by myself.”

House Republicans were caught off guard Tuesday morning when Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, nominated Knopp for Speaker of the House. Rep. Knopp’s nomination failed in a 20-20 split. A news report published Monday led many Republicans to believe he would vote for Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy. Talerico’s nomination failed too. Without a House speaker and no House organization, the House cannot conduct business.

Knopp said he “never specified anybody in particular” when he said he would vote for a Republican speaker last night. He said he was not approached about the nomination until late last night, after the interview took place.

“I was a little surprised and I thought about it and said, ‘Yes,’” Knopp said. As a Republican, Knopp voted for himself, “fulfilling” what he said he’d do.

Knopp says a weak majority of 21 or 22 representatives would never work. He said he remains committed to forming a strong bipartisan majority consisting of 27 or 28 representatives.

“At the end of the day, you have to have 21 members who are going to support that budget,” Knopp said. “Any other legislation that comes before us, you have got to get to 21 (votes). And 21 people will never get there. You gotta have 27, 28 to allow some people to say no. You’ll never move anything forward.”

Knopp worries a weak majority of 21 representatives might fall apart because it would be ineffective. He said this could lead to disaster.

“That’s the worse thing that can happen to us down the road. If you go another 30 days or 60 days and decide you can’t function, trying to reorganize then will be an absolute mess,” Knopp said.

Knopp does not think the budget will pull a majority together tomorrow either.

“I don’t think (the budget) will galvanize or polarize one side or the other,” Knopp said. “You’re not going to go caucus with anybody based on a budget item. You may agree with them on the one item and disagree with them on the next.”

Knopp was asked what he thinks it would take for the House to organize.

“There’s a lot of people just adamant about positions of power. Some are just adamant about being down the party line and it’s more about the party than public policy,” Knopp said. “I think when people start agreeing about that — it’s about what’s in the best interest regardless of where they sit in the organization. I think you’ll finally get there when people start realizing this needs to be about what’s the greater good and not about the party.”

“Everybody’s going to have to get over the shock and awe of the day and understand where we’re still at,” Knopp said of the House floor session.

Knopp said Republicans missed a chance to support a Republican candidate today.

“You could say that the Republicans voted against one of their own today and could’ve had a Republican-led caucus,” Knopp said. “They like to blame me for being 21 and not supporting the caucus. They had the same opportunity today. They chose not to take it.”

By calling himself “21,” Knopp is referring to the fact that if he were to vote for Talerico, the GOP would have a majority of 21 representatives. Without him, the House Republican caucus remains at 20 members.

— Kevin Baird

11:36 a.m.

With the help of our not-so-high-quality photos below, you can see who voted which way in this morning’s gridlocked votes. Both were 20-20. The first image is the first vote, for Talerico, and the second image is the second vote, for Knopp.

The board in the House of Representatives chamber shows the 20-20 vote on whether to name Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, the Speaker of the House. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The board in the House of Representatives chamber shows the 20-20 vote on whether to name Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, the Speaker of the House. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The board in the House of Representatives chamber shows the 20-20 vote on whether to name Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, the Speaker of the House. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The board in the House of Representatives chamber shows the 20-20 vote on whether to name Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, the Speaker of the House. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

— Alex McCarthy

10:45 a.m.

Rep. Gary Knopp’s nomination failed 20-20, after the Kenai Republican surprised the House with the unexpected nod. That concludes the 29th day of session with no speaker.

A vote for Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, also failed 20-20.

Leading up to the vote, Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, called a Knopp “a tireless champion for all Alaskans.” And said it would be important the majority “work effectively regardless of party affiliation.” Ortiz said that’s important because he has no party affiliation.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, N-Ketchikan, speaks in support of Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. The vote for Knopp failed, 20-20. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Dan Ortiz, N-Ketchikan, speaks in support of Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. The vote for Knopp failed, 20-20. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, then asked if Knopp would explain this unexpected nomination. Eastman referenced a news report published Monday night, in which Knopp said he would vote for a Republican nominee.

“I never said who I would support,” Knopp said. “I am in support of a Republican nominee, myself.”

Sharon Jackson, R-Chugiak, calls this “a very interesting occurrence.”

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asks for Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, to clarify comments Knopp made to the press about how he would vote for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asks for Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, to clarify comments Knopp made to the press about how he would vote for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

10:23 a.m.

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, and Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, have been nominated to be Speaker of the House. The vote for Talerico is split 20-20 today, and the nomination fails.

— Kevin Baird

10:25 a.m.

The representatives are introducing guests right now. It’s the 29th day of the 31st Legislative Session. That’s the longest the Alaska House of Representatives has gone without electing a House speaker. The previous record was set in 1981, when the House went 22 days without a speaker.

— Kevin Baird

10:05 a.m.

Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, just dropped the gavel. All 40 members are present in the House of Representatives.

— Kevin Baird

9:50 a.m.

This morning’s Senate Finance Committee meeting features homelessness experts from around the state. Brian Wilson, the executive director of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, is showing map after map of how few resources there are for those experiencing homelessness in rural areas.

“Those problems do not only exist in urban areas,” he says.

As he shows these maps, Juneau is standing out as actually doing pretty well in supplying housing for those who need it the most. One stat that stands out is that Juneau has 3.58 transitional housing beds per 1,000 people. The next closest community is Anchorage, which has 0.95 transitional housing beds per 1,000 people.

— Alex McCarthy

8:55 a.m.

The overriding expectation is that after last night’s near miss, the House is expected to organize today. That would put an end to almost a month-long standstill. There’s a House session scheduled for 10 a.m. We’ll be there.

This organization — with Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, as the expected speaker — would come the day before Gov. Mike Dunleavy releases his budget proposal.

We wrote in today’s paper about what legislators and experts are expecting from Dunleavy’s budget. In short, they’re expecting cuts. Lots of them.

Read that story here: Legislators brace for unknowns of Dunleavy’s budget

— Alex McCarthy

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