Alaska Legislature approves all Walker nominees but 1

April 10, 2018

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Legislature on Tuesday rejected Gov. Bill Walker’s nomination of a former Planned Parenthood field organizer to serve on a board that regulates midwifery in Alaska.

Kenni Linden was the only one of Walker’s nominees to boards and commissions that failed to win confirmation during the joint session.

Lawmakers also confirmed Walker’s Cabinet nominees.

Linden, who’s from Palmer, has said that her own midwife encouraged her to apply for the public seat on the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives. She has said she’s passionate about access to midwifery care in Alaska, based on her family’s experience.

The anti-abortion group Alaska Right to Life opposed her appointment and hailed the rejection of her nomination, though an email from the group’s Patrick Martin said the vote was too close.

The email pointed out Republicans who “voted to stab pro-life Alaskans in the back” by supporting Linden’s confirmation. This is an election year.

Linden is a former regional field organizer for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii.

She has said that most of her experience with the group, which she left in 2016, involved advocating for women’s health and issues such as Medicaid expansion, access to birth control and dating violence prevention.

She said she was disappointed that more lawmakers didn’t take time to speak with her.

“I think it was very unfortunate to see that politics outweighed commonsense, because my appointment had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood,” she said Tuesday. “It had nothing to do with any kind of political agenda.”

The only lawmaker to speak against Linden during Tuesday’s session was Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole, who said she didn’t think Linden was a good fit.

Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner, an Anchorage Democrat, said Linden supports “safe, compassionate care” and would be a good addition.

The Legislature confirmed Sheldon Fisher as revenue commissioner; Mike Navarre as commerce commissioner and Leslie Ridle as commissioner of the Department of Administration.

There was some debate over Fisher’s nomination.

Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage said policies supported by Fisher were too friendly toward the oil and gas industry. But Sen. Anna MacKinnon, an Eagle River Republican, defended Fisher as a man of integrity.

Lawmakers also confirmed health commissioner Valerie Davidson as the lieutenant governor successor. She would become lieutenant governor if that post became vacant. State law calls for a governor to make such an appointment.

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