Within eight hours of the governor making the appointment, House Democrats unanimously confirmed Tiffany Zulkosky as House District 38’s new state representative.
Zulkosky will replace former Representative Zach Fansler, who resigned earlier this month following assault allegations. Governor Walker appointed her yesterday morning, and Majority Coalition legislators confirmed her before the end of the day. Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon said that the choice was clear.
"I know Tiffany myself," he said. "I've worked with her; many of us had worked with her in the past. And she brings a very impressive resume."
A Bethel native, Zulkosky currently serves as the Vice President of Communications at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. She’s also worked in Alaska politics for years.
The state Democratic Party applauded Zulkosky’s confirmation. She is the latest in a string of legislators that Governor Walker has had to appoint this year, and the process was devoid of the controversies that have surrounded his other appointments. In January, Governor Walker did not select any of the original three nominees put forward by House District 40 to replace Representative Dean Westlake. More recently, it took three tries for his office to fill the vacant seat in Senate District E, which was left empty after Mike Dunleavy resigned.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Parmley said that there are several reasons that Zulkosky’s selection process moved so quickly, and gave most of the credit to House District 38’s local party organization. Several weeks ago, District Democrats selected Ben Anderson-Agimuk to be their new district chair, who assembled a seven person nominating committee to review the seat's applicants.
"Our district chair did a great job of listening to many voices," said Parmley. "They were very thoughtful in the questions they asked, they were very ambitious on the timeline, and then they moved very quickly."
It has been a tumultuous few months for Alaska’s Democrats. Zulkosky’s predecessor, Zach Fansler, was forced to step down after a woman accused him of slapping her in the face and injuring her in a hotel room. Two months before that, Democratic Representative Dean Westlake was forced to resign following sexual harassment allegations and the discovery that he had not acted responsibly regarding a child he fathered.
According to Parmley, the scandals may permanently change the Democrats’ vetting process. The party vets appointed legislators like Zulkosky by reviewing public records and conducting cursory background checks. But when it came to elected officials, Parmley said the party deferred to the voters' judgment.
"This is what we’re grappling with right now as a party," he said. "In an election process, when you file for office we may or may not do a cursory background check in the past, and I’m talking about in the past. What's really happened is we're looking at our internal processes in the future.
"I think everyone's in agreement that it's an important part of the process," he added. "It's just not simply enough to expect candidates to be fully vetted in the course of a campaign."
In an interview this afternoon, Zulkosky said she was not sure yet when she would be moving to Juneau, but is excited to get started.