Update: Knopp votes against Republican Talerico for speaker as House stalemate continues

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, speaks during a House Minority press availability in April 2017. Knopp expressed a willingness to rejoin the Republican caucus, even though he has said it won’t function. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Update (Tuesday, 11:05 a.m.) — Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media

Republican House members accused Rep. Gary Knopp of going back on his word Tuesday, after he voted against Rep. Dave Talerico to be speaker.

Knopp said he had committed to voting for a Republican, but he didn’t say which one. He then voted for himself to become speaker. The votes for Talerico and Knopp both tied at 20-20. Twenty-one votes are needed to become speaker. The House hasn’t begun its official legislative work in the first 29 days of the session. House rules require that a speaker must be elected first.

Original story

The Alaska House of Representatives could officially start its work as soon as Tuesday, ending a 29-day stalemate.

Kenai Republican Rep. Gary Knopp is ending his holdout for a bipartisan majority. He said he’s ready to vote for a Republican speaker to lead the Alaska House.

“I’m reluctantly doing that,” Knopp said. “I’m not at all optimistic, but we’ve got to move forward at this point. Hopefully, this moves the needle.”

Knopp had been seeking a new majority coalition that would be split between Republicans and Democrats. But 20 of the 23 Republicans held firm in voting for a Republican-led majority.

Knopp has said the all-Republican caucus won’t function, since any one member could control the agenda. He laid out his position to the Republican caucus Monday.

“I asked them to be really sure that they wanted me to come join them,” Knopp said. “I said, ‘You’re setting yourself up for failure. You don’t have any chance of success. I still believe that, if you can’t entice some other people to come into the caucus.’”

Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico has been the Republicans’ candidate for speaker. He’s hopeful about the House moving forward.

“We really need to get something wrapped up and get underway, so I of course would like to be speaker of the House,” he said. “I don’t think that’s any secret. And I’ve certainly got the support of quite a few people.”

Talerico said Republican representatives are talking about whether the caucus would bind its members to cast certain votes. Knopp said the only binding vote should be to pass the budget.

The story was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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