Legislature narrowly votes down Dunleavy’s University of Alaska Board of Regents nominee

A woman speaks on the floor of th house
Sen. Löki Tobin told the Legislature she opposed Bethany Marcum’s nomination to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. “Ms. Marcum has shown that she cannot uphold the public trust,” Tobin said. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The state Legislature denied one of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nominees for the University of Alaska Board of Regents on Tuesday. Bethany Marcum’s nomination was narrowly defeated at a joint session of the House and Senate.

Several legislators raised concerns about Marcum’s role in the state’s redistricting board as well as her defense of the governor’s steep budget cuts to the university system in 2019.

Last year, a judge struck down the map the board approved, writing at the time that the majority, including Marcum, didn’t make a good faith effort to incorporate public feedback, which resulted in an “arbitrary and capricious” map. Rep. Andrew Gray, D-Anchorage, told the floor Marcum’s work on that board was part of the reason he would vote against her.

“This nominee drove what has been ruled a partisan gerrymander that would have disenfranchised the voters of East Anchorage. And she did it twice,” Gray said. 

Lawmakers who voted no also pointed to Marcum’s support of Dunleavy’s steep budget cuts to the university system in 2019 when she led the Alaska Policy Forum, a conservative think tank. 

“To have a person with the background and experience of supporting cuts like this on our higher education speaks ill of what this means and what impact this will have for higher education, for workforce development and critically for stopping outmigration,” Rep. Ashley Carrick, D-Fairbanks.

But Marcum’s defenders countered that her policy positions don’t affect her ability on the Board of Regents, which acts as a board of directors for Alaska’s public university system, including the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Southeast and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Wasilla, called Marcum “smart, driven, and hard working.”

“I’ve read through the statutory duties of the UA Board of Regents and I don’t recall anywhere in the statutes related to this appointment or any other that we are supposed to hold someone’s policy position and opinions of their employer against them,” McCabe said. 

Several Republican senators joined Democrats in opposing Marcum, and her nomination was defeated in a 31-29 vote. She needed 30 votes to be confirmed.

Dunleavy’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment about the vote. His other nominees for department heads and members of public boards and commissions were all approved, though some faced tight votes.

Brett Huber, a former advisor to Dunleavy, was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Confirmation Commission by a 34-26 vote. Some legislators said Huber, who was also previously Dunleavy’s campaign manager, was too political for the role, which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state. Huber has served on the board since he was appointed in January with an annual salary of $150,000.

Adam Crum, the previous commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, skated through his nomination to lead the Department of Revenue by a 55-5 vote, despite objections over his handling of the food stamp backlog.

Board of Education nominee James Fields also faced criticism for his role in passing a resolution that would prohibit students whose sex at birth isn’t female from participating in girls’ sports. His nomination was ultimately approved by a 35-23 vote.

Lex Treinen

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@gmail.com.

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