Jubilant state Senate Republicans select new leaders. Kudos for state Senator Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau from Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills, who says “Big Fitz” put his party back in the majority. “You knew that we couldn’t win as Republicans and turn this state red, their just aren’t enough Republicans,” said Darling as the Senate GOP caucused at the Capitol. “You knew that we had to appeal to the independents who are fiscal conservatives. So the mandate is there, you can tell we just didn’t squeak by and get the majority.”
Republicans now hold nineteen seats in the Senate to fourteen for Democrats. Fitzgerald served as Minority Leader when those numbers favored the Democrats. “We have so many good people, we have extras now,” said Darling. “So those of us who don’t want to be on the program, and the programs going to be very clear: we’ve got to attack government spending, we’ve got to grow jobs and the economy. Anybody else who doesn’t want to be on that program, take a back seat because that’s where we’re going.”
State Senator Dale Schultz praised Fitzgerald’s wisdom. “I think we all are feeling a little hubris about being back here and having a second chance, but I think most of us know that we’re on a little bit of probation here, and I think you said that, Fitz. People want to see something done, and I think you know that.”
“I don’t know that we necessarily got a mandate,” said Fitzgerald. “But I think what we can certainly assume today is that the people certainly were upset with the overreach that they saw not only in Madison but I think in Washington, D.C. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re enamored with the Republican Party, but they certainly have been willing to give us another shot at it.”
Senator Mike Ellis, the second longest serving Senator, will succeed Madison Democrat Fred Risser, the longest serving member, as Senate President. “Mike will bring to the Senate President’s position the honor and respect that has had in the past,” said Senator Luther Olson, who nominated Ellis for the post. Both Fitzgerald and Ellis received unanimous support from their colleagues. The new session of the legislature begins in January.