Walker picks Spohnholz to succeed Gruenberg in Alaska House

Gov. Bill Walker on Tuesday appointed Ivy Spohnholz to fill the state House seat vacated when Anchorage Democratic Rep. Max Gruenberg died last month, calling Spohnholz a "worthy successor."

Spohnholz was one of three finalists for the job whose names were sent to Walker for consideration by Anchorage Democrats. The other two were Taylor Brelsford and Kendra Kloster.

By law, the appointee must be a member of the same political party as the predecessor, and in this case, would be subject to confirmation by House Democrats.

If confirmed, Spohnholz, 43, said she plans to seek election to the seat later this year. She said she would caucus with minority Democrats.

In a release, Walker said Spohnholz has a heart "for the youngest and most vulnerable among us." She will keep the state's future in mind in working toward a balanced, sustainable budget, he said.

Spohnholz, who works for the Alaska division of the Salvation Army, said that when she was considering seeking the seat, she thought about what is at stake for the state and felt compelled to be a part of the conversation. Legislators are grappling with a multibillion-dollar deficit amid chronically low oil prices.

Spohnholz said she's been following the budget and the state's fiscal situation closely. One thing that's been missing in the discussions so far, she said, is "what kind of a state do we want to have."

"We've been talking about what we're willing to pay for government, and that is a very important conversation," she said. But more important than that is asking: "What kind of a state do we want to have and what are we going to do to get there?" she said.

"Do we want to have a state where people don't want to go to our university system because we have starved it and our best and brightest move out of state?" Spohnholz said. "I don't think that's the state that we want to have, for example."

03/08/2016 - 10:50am