Bethel Democrats have suggested three candidates to fill the seat in the Alaska House of Representatives vacated by Zach Fansler, a Democrat from Bethel who resigned earlier this month after a Juneau woman accused him of slapping her and rupturing her eardrum.
The Alaska Department of Law said the state is also considering whether the evidence is sufficient to prosecute Fansler. Department spokeswoman Cori Mills said by email that prosecutors from the Office of Special Prosecutions is considering whether or not to pursue criminal charges.
In January, according to the account of a Juneau woman who spoke to the Empire, Fansler struck her while the two were on a date. The slap ruptured one of her eardrums, she said, and she had to seek medical attention.
Through the spokeswoman, the office declined to make any additional comment. A state prosecutor unaffiliated with the case said it may be difficult to prove to a jury, which could deter the state from prosecuting. In particular, past references of BDSM between the woman and Fansler could lead a jury to believe the incident was a sexual activity gone wrong, rather than assault. The prosecutor spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
The Democrats from the vast House District 38 have named Yvonne L. Jackson, Raymond “Thor” Williams, and Tiffany Zulkosky their choices for the now vacant House seat.
In a message sent Monday to reporters, Alaska Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley said local Democrats considered five candidates for the open seat. A seven-member nominating committee from the local party interviewed all five, then narrowed the list to three. Mitchell Forbes and Winter Montgomery were not recommended.
Gov. Bill Walker has until March 10 to appoint someone to fill the seat. That person must be a Democrat who lives in District 38 and fulfills all other constitutional requirements.
Under Alaska law and the Alaska Constitution, Walker is not required to pick one of the district’s selectees, and in recent vacancies, he has not been shy about going outside the list.
Walker picked Rep. John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue, to replace Dean Westlake; Lincoln was not on the original list of candidates from Westlake’s district. Similarly, Walker has tried to fill Senate Seat E — formerly occupied by Mike Dunleavy — with someone who was not on the shortlist of candidates forwarded by district Republicans. That issue has not yet been resolved.
The District 38 candidates
Yvonne L. Jackson was born in Bethel and raised in Kasigluk. She has lived in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta 23 years. Jackson works for AVCP as a tribal workforce development director.
Raymond “Thor” Williams has been a Bethel resident for more than 20 years. He is a member of the Bethel City Council and was Mayor of Bethel from 2005-2006. He serves on the Lower Kuskokwim school board.
Tiffany Zulkosky was born and raised in Bethel and is of Yup’ik and Polish decent. She is currently vice president of communications for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. Tiffany holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from Northwest University and master’s in Public Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast.
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