Alaska legislator, farthest north in the US, resigns after winning North Slope mayor’s race

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(Rep. Josiah Patkotak, I-Utqiagvik, speaks in favor of House Joint Resolution 6, the resolution in support of the Willow oil project, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, at the Alaska State Capitol. The resolution passed 36-0. Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

(James Brooks/Alaska Beacon) –

Rep. Josiah Aullaqsruaq Patkotak, America’s farthest north state legislator, resigned from the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday after winning election as mayor of the North Slope Borough.

Patkotak’s resignation opens a vacancy in the Alaska House of Representatives, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy has 30 days to nominate someone to fill the seat.

The governor’s office has opened an online application form for interested candidates, and applications are being accepted through Oct. 31.

Because Patkotak is unaffiliated with any political party, the governor may pick anyone at least 21 years old who is a qualified voter, has lived in Alaska for at least three years, and has lived in House District 40 — covering the North Slope Borough and Northwest Arctic Borough — for at least a year.

The selection by Dunleavy, a Republican, must be confirmed by the remaining 22 members of the coalition that holds a majority in the Alaska House. That coalition includes two Democrats, one independent and 19 Republicans.

“We knew Josiah was running and he’s a good guy. We’re not surprised he won, and we wish him well in his duty,” said House Majority Leader Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River.

Alaska has never had a vacancy in a seat held by an independent, and the confirmation process is new, set by 2020’s Ballot Measure 2. Saddler said he has a legal opinion that sets expectations, and he expects the majority caucus to have the final say.

He said the Legislature will have little input on the process until Dunleavy makes his decision.

“He will make the best pick as he sees,” Saddler said. “We will consider whoever he points to.”

Patkotak did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday afternoon, but in his resignation letter, he thanked voters and his colleagues.

“I have great faith that the challenges and opportunities our state faces are going to be met head-on by this Legislature, and I am here to provide support in whatever way I can,” he said in the letter.

Patkotak’s resignation had been expected if he won; he said in May that he was planning to run for mayor and would resign if he won that local race.

The North Slope Borough is Alaska’s highest income on a per-capita basis, and it governs the territory that includes the state’s major oil fields.

Patkotak raised more money than his opponents in the mayoral race and led in initial vote-counting after local elections on Oct. 3. In certified results posted Tuesday, he received 796 votes; his closest opponent had 345.