This Nov. 9, 2016 photo shows state Rep. Zach Fansler during a House news conference in Anchorage after the 2016 general election. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon on Jan. 27, 2018, requested Fansler’s resignation after a report in the Juneau Empire in which a woman alleged that Fansler hit her during a night of drinking. Fansler’s attorney has said there was no crime. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

This Nov. 9, 2016 photo shows state Rep. Zach Fansler during a House news conference in Anchorage after the 2016 general election. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon on Jan. 27, 2018, requested Fansler’s resignation after a report in the Juneau Empire in which a woman alleged that Fansler hit her during a night of drinking. Fansler’s attorney has said there was no crime. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

Rep. Fansler resigns after assault allegations

Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, has resigned six days after the Juneau Empire published details of an alleged assault by the first-term Alaska lawmaker against a Juneau woman.

His resignation was officially announced Friday morning in a regularly scheduled meeting of the House of Representatives. The letter did not include an effective date, so Fansler’s resignation will become effective Feb. 12, 10 days after it was filed.

“With great sadness I have decided to tender my resignation as the representative of District 38 in order to dedicate more time to personal matters,” the letter states. “My constituents need a representative who can devote her or his full attention towards advocating on matters of great import to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so at this time.”

In a speech on the House floor, Speaker of the House Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, said Fansler’s staff will remain at their jobs to answer questions and help the residents of Fansler’s district.

In a statement sent by text message, the woman — whom the Empire is not naming — said she had mixed feelings.

“I’m glad this bit of uncertainty has been resolved but I was disappointed to read in his resignation letter that Zach is avoiding taking responsibility for his actions. Since his resignation is not effective until the 12th and he is still collecting per diem, I suggest that he donate the next 10 days’ per diem to the Tundra Women’s Coalition,” she wrote, referring to the Bethel women’s group where Fansler used to volunteer.

“Zach caused me a great deal of physical and emotional pain, but he also let down his constituents, and they deserve better,” she wrote. “While the last three weeks have been very difficult, it was a comfort to me to see that Speaker Edgmon and his colleagues took my report seriously and acted quickly.”

On Jan. 27, the Empire published the account of a Juneau woman who said she was assaulted by Rep. Fansler at his hotel room on Jan. 13. The woman said she was slapped multiple times by Fansler after a night of drinking, with enough force that one of her eardrums ruptured. She provided medical records and pictures to back up her account.

She also provided the Empire with copies of text messages that showed Fansler apologized to her and said he was sorry that he brought his “bdsm kink” out. The woman said that the topic of BDSM did come up briefly during their relationship, but that she never consented to that.

“I certainly at no point in that evening was asked for my consent or gave my consent,” she said.

The Juneau Police Department is investigating the case. No update from JPD was immediately available on Friday, but the woman told the Empire that she believes the investigator on the case will finish his report by early next week.

Fansler’s resignation will start the clock on a legally binding process to fill his seat in the Legislature. Gov. Bill Walker will have 30 days from Feb. 12 to name a replacement. In an effort to speed that process, the procedures of the Alaska Democratic Party call for district party officials to collect applications and winnow them to a list of finalists that will be forwarded to the governor.

The governor is not required to pick from that list of finalists, but because the governor’s pick must be confirmed by a vote of Democrats already in the House, picking from the list is generally seen as a way to ensure the pick will be accepted.

Fansler’s departure comes two days after Rep. John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue was sworn in to replace Dean Westlake, who resigned in December after allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. The gain of Lincoln and the loss of Fansler from the coalition majority in the House of Representatives leaves the majority with 21 members, the smallest possible majority in the 40-person House.

The House’s 18-member Republican minority praised Fansler’s decision to resign.

“There is absolutely no excuse for dating violence. It cannot be tolerated. Our members are proud of victims who have taken courageous steps to report such vile behavior. Our thoughts remain with all of those who have suffered dating violence and domestic violence,” the minority said in a prepared statement.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, has been among the most outspoken members of the House majority on the topic of sexual harassment and abuse in the Legislature.

Speaking to the Empire Friday afternoon, she said she was pleased to see it and thinks it sends a message that misbehavior by lawmakers will not be tolerated by their coworkers.

“What we know is that these kinds of situations have been taking place in Alaska for a very long time, and Alaska’s really no different from the rest of the United States in having to address these kinds of problems, but I’m really pleased to see that our coalition has been able to be so courageous in facing them head-on so hopefully we can turn the page on behavior that for far too long was tolerated,” she said.

She gave her thanks to the woman in the case as well.

“It’s hard to do that. She did it, and in doing so, she helped to address a problem, and I think we owe her a debt of gratitude,” Spohnholz said.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said shortly before Fansler’s resignation that the impending event had created a “sense of closure” for lawmakers in the majority.

“This has again been a difficult situation all the way around,” he said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 29

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Public defender agency to refuse some cases, citing staffing

ANCHORAGE — A state agency that represents Alaskans who cannot afford their… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police: Gift card scam connected to hoax Fred Meyer threats

This article has been moved in front of the Empire’s paywall. A… Continue reading

This is a concept design drawing that was included in the request for proposal sent out by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities seeking outside engineering and design services to determine whether it’s feasible to build a new ferry terminal facility in Juneau at Cascade Point. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
DOT takes steps toward potential Cascade Point ferry terminal facility

It would accommodate the Tazlina and or Hubbard, shorten trips to Haines and Skagway

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Winfree gets a standing ovation from the Alaska State Legislature as he enters the House chamber Wednesday to deliver his final State of the Judiciary speech. Winfree is stepping down next Monday when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Chief justice bids lawmakers a fervent farewell

Daniel Winfree, in State of Judiciary days before retirement, warns about mixing politics and courts

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, stands in the well of the House Chambers with other Democrats, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to hear Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., deliver remarks shortly after becoming the new minority leader on Jan. 6. The speech came after a nearly weeklong stalemate by Republicans in electing a speaker after they won a narrow majority in November’s election. (Screenshot from C-SPAN video feed)
Peltola learning the House party is over

Distractions and inaction replace honeymoon headlines as Alaska’s new rep joins minority.

Most Read