Walker selects Kotzebue man for vacant Alaska House seat

Hours before the deadline set by state law, Gov. Bill Walker selected John Agnaqluk Lincoln for a vacant position in the Alaska House of Representatives.

Lincoln, if confirmed by a majority vote of the House’s 16 Democrats, will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Dean Westlake, whose resignation came after repeated allegations of sexual misconduct. His resignation became effective Christmas Day. Under state law, Walker had 30 days to make a choice.

“I thank everyone who stepped forward and applied, but I am fully convinced that John Lincoln is the best person for this role,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

House Democrats had been expected to hold a confirmation vote Thursday, but they adjourned a closed-door caucus meeting after two hours Thursday morning without considering the topic. House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, said late Thursday that a vote would take place as soon as House members finished their daily committee meetings. That had not taken place by press deadline.

If Lincoln is confirmed, joins the Legislature and assumes Westlake’s former position among the House coalition majority, he would give that majority 22 votes. With Westlake’s seat vacant, the coalition has a bare majority of 21 votes.

Lincoln, lands manager for NANA Regional Corp., was not one of the three original finalists for the vacant position, which represents the North Slope Borough and Northwest Arctic Borough in the House.

According to information provided by NANA, Lincoln is a member of Kotzebue’s tribal council and holds a degree from Stanford University. He worked in IT before becoming lands manager.

House District 40 Democrats had selected Leanna Mack of Utqiagvik, Sandy Shroyer-Beaver of Kotzebue and Eugene Smith of Kotzebue as their finalists, but Walker is not required by state law to pick from among those finalists. The process of selecting a short list of candidates is a procedure used by Alaska’s Republican and Democratic parties to help a governor pick a lawmaker who will be acceptable to his or her compatriots in the Legislature.

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Walker suggested he was dissatisfied with the options presented by the Democrats.

After interviewing the three, he interviewed Lincoln in Juneau on Tuesday and interviewed Abel Hopson-Suvlu of the Arctic Slope Native Association on Wednesday.

“Just like the Democratic Party officials in House District 40, I set out to identify the person who is best prepared to lead at this pivotal moment in Alaska’s history,” Walker said in his statement.

If Walker’s selection is confirmed, the Alaska Legislature will still have one vacant seat, that formerly occupied by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, who resigned Jan. 15.

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, is one of three people who have been nominated by the Republican Party organization of Dunleavy’s former district. Rauscher said he expects the governor will not name a Dunleavy replacement immediately, and that Walker has a significant amount of time before the statutory 30-day deadline.

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

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