Johnson to challenge Chenault for Alaska House Speaker  

Current Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault is “leaning” towards going for his fourth term as speaker, he said. If a majority of his caucus decides to support him again in November, shortly after the general election, it will make him the longest serving speaker in the state’s history. He’s survived for so long because he’s cunning, wily and from most accounts, he’s done a good job of keeping things moving and keeping his members relatively content. As content, that is, as 30 power-hungry politicians can be.

But Anchorage Rep. Craig Johnson, who’s been in the House since 2006 and is currently Rules Chair, thinks it’s time for a change. Johnson said in an interview on Thursday night that if he wins his House seat in November—which is likely—he’ll also be vying to be speaker. He’s beenlobbying fellow lawmakers to give him their support when it comes time to vote. “I am asking for support to be speaker and I think I have it,” he said.

Johnson said that he respects Chenault and that he could very well be the best Speaker of the House that the state has ever had. However, having the same person in that seat for so long, “inhibits growth and thwarts ambitions,” particularly with new, younger members.

“Change can be good,” Johnson said.

Anchorage House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt also said that House members seem hungry to “shake things up.”

He’s said that Chenault has done a great job, but he likened the House leadership to snow globes. “It’s nice to shake them,” he said, adding that if Johnson is speaker, he’d like to be Chair of Rules.

When reached on the phone on Thursday, Chenault said that the news didn’t completely surprise him. He and Johnson have been talking about it since the session ended in April. And he suspects that they’ll “work something out” before it gets to the vote.

If they can’t work it out?

“I like to think I’ve done a reasonable job, and have enough support, but anything can happen,” Chenault said.

“There’s a lot of time between now and then. Lots of people will tell you today that they support you, but when it comes down to it, they might pull that support.”

The majority caucus meets within days after the general election in November to vote on positions. People throw their hat in the ring and then lobby for votes. Promises are made. Cliques are formed. Calculations are taken. Deals are made.

Here’s the important thing: they vote via secret ballot, and often times how members say they will vote, and how they actually do vote, are two different things.

In the 2012 meeting, it was assumed by many that Rep. Mike Hawker had Finance co-Chair sewn up. When the votes were counted, however, Rep. Bill Stoltze, took that position.

How much support each of them will get in November will in large part be based on what they do for the members between now and then to make sure they keep their seats.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


8 thoughts on “Johnson to challenge Chenault for Alaska House Speaker  

  1. Anchorage Watch

    The problem with Chenault and his staff is how negative they have been toward women. They give the Alaska GOP a bad name. We need to get out of the dark ages and starting treating women officials and voters with respect.

  2. LysanderSpooner

    Both of these clowns are poster children for term limits. Nothing substantive changes under either of them.

  3. StatDaddy

    Craig Johnson has a dream, just like Hawker had a dream of being Finance chair the last ywo years. If I was a betting guy, I’d put my money on Chenault for 2 more years. Chenault is well-liked, fair and knows how to excercise power in a fair and measured manner. His top aide, Tom Wright, is also a real asset for the Speaker. Like him or not, he helps a lot of the caucus with their elections. BTW, Ruitt’s comments in this article are demonstrative of his lack of political sophistication. He is a dummies delight!

  4. Lynn Willis

    These legislators seem to favor the policy of term limits regarding the Alaska House Speaker position. I support expanding that policy to include all of their positions.

  5. Garand Fellow

    It’s possible that the November election will bring so few minority members that someone putting the majority together can offer all the seats on Finance to those who will come along. That could be enough trading stock to make anyone speaker.

  6. Mike

    Craig Johnson is a great state rep. He has some of the best constituent services of the legislative body. I’ve only had positive experiences with his office and even Democrats I know say the same thing. If Johnson is able to keep his diverse constituents happy or at least felt heard, that is a great trait for House Speaker. Chenault; great guy and full of filthy, funny jokes. Either way, we will be in good hands.

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