ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Democratic Party slammed state Rep. Lindsey Holmes for switching her party affiliation to Republican.
“Rep. Holmes has deceived the voters of her district,” Democratic Party chair-elect Mike Wenstrup said in a statement issued after Holmes announced that she changed her party registration. “She should have been honest about her intentions. If she intended to serve as a Republican, she should have run as a Republican.”
Holmes, who represents west Anchorage, was re-elected as a Democrat in November.
Holmes announced the switch Saturday and said she is joining the state House majority.
“In a sense, I’ve been moving toward this awhile,” she said.
With her addition, the majority caucus now has 30 members.
“Lindsey has worked hard for Alaskans since she’s been in Juneau,” House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said in a statement. “With this move she’s putting Alaska and Alaskans first to achieve what is best for her constituents; that shows true leadership.”
Holmes said her decision, in some ways, was six years in the making, as she worked with majority members on issues and found herself more aligned with many of them and their vision for the state.
She said she had been weighing the idea particularly over the last month, as she felt it would be more disruptive to make a party switch — if that’s what she was going to do — midsession.
She said she hoped her constituents would understand. Their reaction “is of paramount importance to me,” and she said her door would be open to them and she would reach out to them. She said that with the switch, she thinks she can do the best job for her district and the state.
Holmes will have a seat on the House Finance Committee in the new legislative session that starts Tuesday. It’s a coveted assignment, one that was not promised to Holmes on the condition that she join the caucus, she said.
Wenstrup said his party is confident that after the next election Holmes’ district will be “represented by a Democrat who people can trust.”
In the meantime, there is talk of starting a recall against Holmes, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The Democratic caucus now loses one of three seats it had expected to have on the Finance Committee, a key forum for much of the legislation taken by lawmakers, including expected bills aiming to change Alaska’s oil tax structure.
Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat among the three Democrats on the committee, said Sunday that losing a seat there will not make much difference because “we’ll still do our homework.”
Gara said he was disappointed by Holmes’ party change, but added that everyone gets to make their own decisions.
“My moral compass says I don’t switch parties right after the election,” he said.
Losing a Democrat won’t distract the Democratic caucus away from its focus on oil tax issues, education and affordable energy, said House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula of Juneau.
“Yes, Lindsey left for her own reasons,” Kerttula said. “But our caucus is strong and focused on our work for Alaska. And that hasn’t changed.”
Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer in Juneau contributed to this report.