Organizationally, things may be a bit chaotic in the Executive Branch, as they are bound to be in a new administration which is pushing out an old administration that isn’t ready to leave yet. Things are much calmer on the legislative side, which is to be expected. The faces, in leadership at least, are relatively familiar. However, there will be eight new faces in the House in the 29th Legislature this year: five men and three women. Five are Republicans and two are Democrats and one is an Independent who will caucusing with the minority. Here’s a look at who they are:
Adam Wool (D – Fairbanks) – House District 5
Rep.-elect Adam Wool was a late comer to the race gaining his position on the ballot after the Democratic primary nominee dropped out. He is the only Democratic House candidate that beat a Republican incumbent. He will be replacing Rep. Pete Higgins. Wool moved to Fairbanks in 1983 to attend UAF where he obtained a degree in physics. Three years later, he co-founded Hot Licks Ice Cream with his brother. He purchased what is now known as the Blue Loon in 1996 and continues to operate the business as Fairbanks’ top entertainment venue. His wife, Kate, and he have two young children. He’s said to be a pro-business, pro-hunting Democrat. One insider described him as “More Chris Tuck than Les Gara.” He’s also reputed to be charismatic, and an all-around fun guy to be around, which is going to help to buoy the spirits of the minority.
Dave Talerico (R – Healy) – House District 6
Rep.-elect Dave Talerico was born in Ellensburg, Washington 58 years ago and has called Alaska home for the past 45 years. He is a miner by profession and has been involved in the tourism business. His wife, Peggy, and he have two children and seven grandchildren. Talerico is no neophyte when it comes to government service. He has served as the Denali Borough mayor. He has also served as an assemblyman for the Denali Borough, a past member of the Upper Railbelt school board and as a legislative staffer in Juneau. Talerico will co-chair the House Resources committee in 2015.
Jim Colver (R – Hatcher Pass) – House District 9
Rep.-elect Jim Colver won a major upset in the primary, defeating incumbent Eric Feige, and won his race handily in the district, which touches the Mat-Su and runs to Valdez. The eminently likeable Colver is a lifelong Alaskan and professionally is a registered land surveyor and has operated his own surveying business for 25 years. He and his family live in Hatcher Pass. Colver is currently on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly and he also served on the School Board in the Valley. When he goes to Juneau in January, he will serve as the vice chair of the Joint Administrative Regulatory Review committee. Colver hasn’t always been a registered Republican. In the past, he was active in the Alaska Democratic Party, and he still has a little of that in him, particularly in his support for labor, which supported him in his primary race. Colver’s father was the Attorney General under Gov. Bill Egan.
Cathy Tilton (R – Palmer) – House District 12
Rep.-elect Cathy Tilton has worked as a legislative staffer for the past four years for Mat-Su legislators–two years for Sen. Linda Menard and most recently for Rep. Mark Neuman, where she played a pivotal role in helping to write the operating budgets for DOT and DHSS. With this experience, she’ll be filling Bill Stoltze’s House seat prepared to start work. She will chair the House Community and Regional Affairs committee in the upcoming session, and although she’s a hard worker, she’ll likely laugh often while doing it. Tilton was born and raised in Alaska and has lived in the Mat-Su for over 30 years. She and her husband, Berkley, are real estate developers. Prior to working for the legislature, Tilton also worked for a law firm and the City of Wasilla.
Matt Claman (D – Anchorage) – House District 21
Rep.-elect Matt Claman won his race in West Anchorage narrowly to Republican Anand Dubey, The race shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but somehow Claman has managed to upset what should have been staunch Dem allies, which has puzzled me for months. One clue might be that he took on the unions when he was acting mayor in 2008. In any case, he’s a reasonable, intelligent and will be a good addition to Juneau. Claman’s 55 years old. He is a lawyer, is married to Lisa Rieger, also a lawyer, and has two children. He served on the Anchorage Assembly and after Begich was elected to the U.S. Senate he became the acting mayor. He is an avid and skilled outdoorsman. He used to be in private practice with Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who is the new House Judiciary chair. It’s unclear what committees he’ll be on, as the race was too close to call as the minority was organizing.
Liz Vazquez (R – Anchorage) – House District 22
Rep.-elect Liz Vazquez ran for the state Senate two years ago and lost in the Republican primary to AK GOP favorite Bob Bell. This year she ran for Mia Costello’s House seat that was open due to Costello’s Senate bid, and she won decisively. She’s smart, and can get very intense, as people who know what they’re talking about often do. She’ll chair the House Special Committee on Energy, and will no doubt bring some of her legal and business acumen to the job. She has a law degree from Cornell and an MBA from Alaska Pacific University. She has served on the Chugach Electric board of directors. She’s married to attorney Mark Davis who serves as the Deputy Director of AIDEA.
Louise Stutes (R – Kodiak) – House District 32
Rep.-elect Louise Stutes, who is replacing Alan Austerman, isn’t likely to be pushed around in Juneau. This 35 year resident of Kodiak owned and operated the Village Bar for 25 of those years and likely threw more than one problematic patron out the door. She’s said to be no-nonsense, and like other rural legislators who need to work with all sides to fight for their districts, she’s said to be relatively moderate. In addition to the bar, Stutes was also the president of Kodiak CHARR and served on the Kodiak Borough Assembly. Stutes is married to a commercial fisherman (Stormy) and has four adult children. She is 62 years old. She will chair the Special Committee on Fisheries.
Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan)—House District 36
Rep.-elect Dan Ortiz, who is 56, will be an interesting addition to Juneau as he’ll be the only Independent legislator, however, I’m told that he’ll be caucusing with the minority. Ortiz grew up and went to high school in Ketchikan. He went away to Seattle and to Wisconsin for college but he came back and was a teacher for 30 years until he retired. He has been a Republican, a Democrat and a member of the Republican Moderate Party, which was founded by Ray Metcalfe. He’s said to be well liked and respected in his community, which rallied in support of him after the sometimes flatfooted AK GOP sent out an attack mailer against him. That went over so well that his Republican opponent, Chere Klein, had to take an ad out in the paper apologizing.
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