Politics & Government

Palin departure prompts new succession worries in Alaska

ANCHORAGE — Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan offered a compromise Friday in the legal dispute over who will be the next lieutenant governor: allow Gov. Sarah Palin's pick, Craig Campbell, to be "acting" lieutenant governor until he can be confirmed.

"It ensures a smooth transition, it ensures no gaps with regard to the succession line to the governor's office, but it's also very respectful and preserves the Legislature's prerogative of future confirmation," said Sullivan, who Palin appointed as state attorney general less than a month ago.

State House Speaker Mike Chenault said he doesn't know if Sullivan's suggestion would work. The Nikiski Republican said the Legislature's lawyers are looking it over, and he wants to make sure it would be airtight so the state doesn't end up in "a big legal fiasco."

"What would happen if something happened to Sean (Parnell) and you have a lieutenant governor that hasn't been confirmed? Then politics start to play into it and then it would get ugly," he said.

The issue came up with Palin's surprise announcement last week that she will resign from office July 26 and hand power over to Parnell, the current lieutenant governor. Palin said Campbell, the state commissioner of military and veteran affairs, would then take over as the lieutenant governor.

The problem is that Palin in February selected someone else, Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt, as next in the line of succession behind Parnell to be lieutenant governor, and the Legislature confirmed him. The Legislature's top lawyer, Tam Cook, said this week that Palin can't put Campbell in the job instead unless he is confirmed by the Legislature.

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