Walker appoints Lincoln to vacant Alaska House seat

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Thursday, January 25, 2018 10:33pm
  • News

JUNEAU — A vice president of an Alaska Native regional corporation has been appointed to the western Alaska House seat left vacant by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake.

Gov. Bill Walker late Wednesday appointed John Lincoln of Kotzebue to replace Westlake, who resigned last month after being accused by female aides of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments.

Lincoln’s appointment is subject to confirmation by House Democrats.

State law calls for legislative vacancies to be filled within 30 days; Wednesday was the deadline. The individual chosen must be from the same political party as their predecessor.

Tradition holds that party officials from the district where the vacancy exists provide a list of finalists to the governor for consideration. Lincoln’s name was not on an initial short list sent to Walker from Democrats in House District 40.

Austin Baird, a spokesman for Walker, said after some conversations with district party leaders, it “became clear” residents wanted additional candidates to be considered.

Lincoln was one of two additional candidates to come forward and district Democrats wanted them to be considered, Baird said.

Walker has not said if he had reservations with any of the initial three finalists — Leanna Mack, Sandy Shroyer-Beaver and Eugene Smith.

In a statement, Walker said that like local party officials, “I set out to identify the person who is best prepared to lead at this pivotal moment in Alaska’s history.”

Lincoln is a vice president with NANA Regional Corporation. According to a bio provided by the governor’s office, Lincoln earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and is a private pilot who has worked as an EMT for the Kotzebue Volunteer Fire Department.

In 2009, Gov. Sarah Palin refused to appoint Beth Kerttula to an empty Senate seat after Democrats submitted just Kerttula’s name. Senate Democrats refused several Palin picks before the two sides agreed on Dennis Egan, who is still serving.

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