ANCHORAGE, Alaska — At a town hall meeting with his constituents Tuesday, Ketchikan Rep. Kyle Johansen vowed he will return to the state House’s Republican caucus when the Legislature convenes in January.
The meeting came in the wake of an editorial in the Ketchikan Daily News calling on Johansen to resign, after a caucus meeting earlier this month where Johansen gave up his position as House majority leader.
Johansen, Ketchikan’s only House member, was re-elected to a third term, and was also re-elected as majority leader for the upcoming session.
At the Nov. 5 caucus meeting, Johansen offered his majority leader’s position if Anchorage Rep. Charisse Millett could have a House Finance Committee seat, after she was refused the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee chair and left the meeting.
But the caucus again refused, and Johansen also left the meeting. The two were then dismissed from the House majority.
“I think he loves this community, I think he loves his district -- but he made a horrible decision that now is going to have implications,” said Ketchikan resident John Judson.
At Tuesday’s town hall meeting, Johansen spoke with residents about his recent actions.
“People were venting and people saying, 'Why did you do it, why did you do it?' and they weren't buying his reasons,” Judson said.
“You don't like what's going on in the State of Alaska, you don't jump outside the organization; you won't have any clout to do anything,” said former state representative and Ketchikan resident Bill Williams.
Ketchikan residents who attended the meeting say Johansen promised them he will return to the Republican-led majority caucus, and that he will likely be chair or co-chair of a committee this coming session.
“I asked the question, if 1 (was) not going to be able to happen at all, 10 being absolutely going to happen, what's the likelihood of you getting a leadership position in the caucus, and he said, ‘10,’” Judson said. “Now if he does that he's back in, he's just back in -- but if he doesn't, he'll go from hero to zero.”
Some say they worry Johansen's promises will fall flat, leaving him as one of the two least powerful legislators in the House.
“The only voice he will have is on the floor of the House, and by the time anything gets to the floor of the House, usually everything is done by that time,” Williams said.
“If Kyle is just doing this on his own, if he's one lone wolf out there against the rest of the pack, then we got a real problem -- and it could cost our district,” Judson said.
Phone calls and e-mails to Johansen were not returned Wednesday. He told the Ketchikan Daily News he plans to meet with the new House speaker, Mike Chenault, in Anchorage next week.
Contact Lori Tipton at firstname.lastname@example.org