Therriault picked as new Senate president

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- State Sen. Gene Therriault, a Republican from North Pole, was chosen Senate president by his GOP majority caucus, Republicans said Thursday.

Therriault won the caucus support in traditional secret balloting over Wrangell Republican Robin Taylor, who lost a bid earlier this year for lieutenant governor.

Therriault, who moved to the Senate two years ago after four terms in the House, will hold the position for two years. Therriault replaces Sen. Rick Halford, who did not seek re-election.

House Republicans began meeting Thursday to pick their next speaker, but it was unclear whether the issue would be resolved quickly.

Republicans retained control of the Legislature after the statewide election Tuesday. But the 14-6 majority they held last year could shrink by two seats when this year's election is finalized.

Senate Republicans picked a leadership team during a meeting Wednesday in Anchorage but Therriault said final committee selections will not be made until three key races are settled.

In Anchorage, Democrat Gretchen Guess leads Republican Tim Worthen by 88 votes with all the precincts counted. Two other Senate races involve Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, of Anchorage and Democrat Sen. Kim Elton of Juneau, who each lead Republican challengers by more than 400 votes.

The elections will not be final until all the absentee ballots are counted. That should happen by Nov. 29 at the latest, elections officials said.

Sen. Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, was chosen as majority leader to replace Loren Leman. Leman was elected lieutenant governor.

Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, will chair the Rules Committee, which ultimately decides what legislation will go to the floor for a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee, which deliberates on the state budget, will be co-chaired by Sens. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, and Lyda Green, R-Wasilla. Former co-chair Dave Donley lost to Democrat Hollis French on Tuesday and Sen. Pete Kelly did not seek re-election.

In deliberations for leadership of the House, Reps. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, and John Harris, R-Valdez, were vying to replace Brian Porter as speaker. Porter, a former Anchorage Police chief, did not seek re-election to a sixth term.

Republicans now hold a 12-8 majority in the Senate after Republican Moderate Tom Wagoner joined the caucus, Therriault said. Wagoner defeated incumbent Republican Jerry Ward for a Kenai Peninsula senate seat.

The upset victory came as Ward was fending off accusations that he lived in Anchorage and after Democrat Pat Hawkins dropped from the race.

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