Republicans pick Giessel as new Alaska Senate president

In this file photo, Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, reads one of the two versions of HB 111 dealing with oil tax credits during a Conference Committee hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo, Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, reads one of the two versions of HB 111 dealing with oil tax credits during a Conference Committee hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

JUNEAU (AP) — Republicans have maintained control of the Alaska Senate and chose Sen. Cathy Giessel of Anchorage to be the new president of the chamber.

Giessel would replace Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly, who appears to have lost his re-election bid to Democratic state Rep. Scott Kawasaki.

Giessel was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and has been chair of the Senate Resources Committee.

The Senate majority includes 13 Republicans. The Senate has 20 total members.

Rena Miller, communications director for the majority, said Monday that some details still need to be worked out, including whether members will be required to vote for the budget. That has been a sticky issue within the Legislature in recent years, particularly for some members from the conservative Matanuska-Susitna region.

Giessel, in a statement Sunday, said the Senate “is committed to listening to Alaskans who have made their priorities clear: the state budget, public safety and protecting the Permanent Fund and the dividend.”

Miller said she believed details about the Senate’s position on the Permanent Fund would be ironed out soon.

Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, a member of the current Republican-led majority, isn’t listed as a member of the majority or the minority. He could not immediately be reached for comment. He has been a co-chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate majority said Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman and Anchorage Sen. Natasha von Imhof would be Senate Finance co-chairs for the upcoming Legislature, which begins in January. Anchorage Sen. Mia Costello will serve as majority leader and North Pole Sen. John Coghill will serve as Rules chair.

Control of the 40-member House remained unclear.

Republicans claimed control after the elections and said they had 21 members, assuming a win by Republican Bart LeBon in the Fairbanks race to replace Kawasaki. LeBon held a five-vote edge after the latest round of ballot counting Friday.

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