Former Air Force pilot confirmed as Senate pick; Gov nominates former Bethel mayor for House District 38

More than a month after the start of its 2018 session, the Alaska Legislature is nearing full strength.

In a Thursday morning vote, Senate Republicans voted to confirm the appointment of former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Mike Shower to the seat representing Senate District E. That seat has been vacant since Mike Dunleavy resigned the day before the start of the session in order to concentrate on his run for governor.

In a separate action the same day, Gov. Bill Walker named Tiffany Zulkosky of Bethel to the vacant seat representing House District 38. That seat has been vacant since Feb. 12, when Zach Fansler resigned in the wake of allegations that he slapped a Juneau woman hard enough to rupture one of her eardrums.

Zulkosky must be confirmed by a majority vote of the 17 Democrats in the House of Representatives before taking the seat.

Several House Democrats said Thursday that they are not aware of anything that would cause her confirmation to fail.

Senate Majority spokesman Daniel McDonald said Thursday morning that no date has yet been set for Shower to be sworn into office, an act that would allow him to take Seat E. He is expected to make an appearance at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Palmer Senior Center as part of a Mat-Su legislative delegation forum.

Shower’s confirmation ends a tortuous process to find a replacement for Dunleavy. Walker’s first choice, Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, was rejected by Senate Republicans upset that Walker chose someone who was not on a short list of prospects approved by local Republicans.

Walker responded to that criticism by naming Tom Braund, a man who was on the list of candidates. In the hours after that pick, journalists discovered social media posts in which Braund compared women to dogs and appeared to advocate the murder of abortion providers. Braund subsequently withdrew his name from consideration for the seat.

After Braund’s nomination and signs that Walker was unhappy with the other names on the district’s list, Republicans suggested additional options. From that list, Walker selected Shower, but even that selection seemed to be in trouble when the Division of Elections voter registry indicated Shower wasn’t a registered Republican.

Alaska law requires that legislative vacancies be filled by someone from the same party (among other requirements). As it turned out, Shower had changed his registration in mid-January, but that change had not yet showed up in the registry.

After the change became official, Walker reappointed Shower to avoid any legal problems, and he was confirmed.

Zulkosky, the pick for House District 38, is vice president of communications for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. Before being selected for that job in 2016, she was elected to the Bethel City Council and, at age 23, was selected Mayor of Bethel. She is still the youngest person ever to serve in that job.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich subsequently selected her to serve as his rural director, which forced her to move to Anchorage. That job ended when Begich lost his election to the U.S. Senate in 2014.

In a weekend interview with KYUK-FM in Bethel, she said she would consider running for re-election in the fall, if she is confirmed and is a good fit with the coalition House Majority.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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