ANCHORAGE, Alaska — As confusion over who is legally bound to assume the role of lieutenant governor after Gov. Sarah Palin resigns later this month continues, the House Judiciary Committee announced it will hold a hearing next week.
Committee Chair Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, issued a statement Wednesday saying that his group will consider Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell, commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to be the next lieutenant governor-designee.
“The governor quit and went fishing,” Ramras said in the statement. “Governor Palin failed to leave specific instructions, so the Legislature is stepping in to bring order to the constitutional chaos she created.”
Joe Schmidt, the Department of Corrections commissioner, had been confirmed by the Legislature during the last session as the next in the line of ascension. He replaced former Attorney General Talis Colberg, who resigned.
Palin created confusion over who would become lieutenant governor amid the chaos of her resignation announcement by declaring that Campbell would assume the post after current Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was sworn in as governor, bypassing Schmidt.
Schmidt told Channel 2 News over the weekend he no longer wanted the position.
“She seems to have planned the succession of state business around a picnic rather than the constitution she told us for years and years she cherishes more than anything else,” Ramras said in a phone interview with Channel 2. “It seems to diminish the process, and I find her behavior irresponsible and deplorable.”
According to a legal opinion issued by the Legislative Affairs Agency’s Division of Legal and Research Services, state law is murky, at best, in trying to resolve the vacancy during the Legislature’s recess.
House Speaker Mike Chenault said the Legislature will continue looking for a solution.
The questions are unresolved mostly because they’ve never come up before. Then-Gov. Wally Hickel resigned in 1968 to become secretary of the federal Interior Department, but his lieutenant governor-designee did not vacate the post and the order of succession was maintained.