From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --
(Update -- Gov. Sarah Palin just sent out a statement saying that "Elton pledged his allegience to President Obama last summer."
Here's Palin's full statement:
“Senator Elton pledged his allegiance to President Obama last summer. We wish him well as he moves on and hope that he uses this job for Alaska’s benefit - to advance the state’s oil and gas issues, including the natural gas pipeline, and to work diligently to remove the barriers imposed upon all states that want to open up their shores to off-shore drilling. I hope he can represent Alaskans by opening ANWR, conveying the importance of responsible mining development, and building roads – all issues crucial to the future of our state.”)
Juneau Democrat Kim Elton said this morning he’s resigning from the state Senate to become director of Alaska affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Elton’s resignation is effective at 5 p.m. today.
Elton was in the state House from 1995 to 1998 and has been in the Senate since 1999. He’ll be moving to Washington, D.C., for the new job, which will focus on advising the Interior Department about Alaska land and natural resources issues.
Gov. Sarah Palin will select Elton’s replacement but needs a majority of the Democrats in the Senate to approve her pick. The Democratic Party in Juneau will submit up to three names for Palin to consider, but she does not have to follow its advice.
State House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula appears to be the top choice among Juneau Democratic leaders to replace Elton. "I think Beth Kerttula has, I would say, 95 percent of the support of (Juneau) Democrats," said Rich Listowski, a Democratic Party Central Committee member from Juneau.
Kerttula, though, has been sharply critical of Palin since she ran for vice president.
"That's something that's on everbody's mind," Listowski said. "Hopefully the governor will take into consideration all of Beth's experience."
Palin has 30 days to make the choice. If she selects Kerttula, the selection process would be repeated to fill Kerttula's seat representing downtown Juneau in the state House.