JUNEAU, Alaska — A northern Alaska lawmaker said he’s not giving up his fight against the state over his loss in the August primary election.
Democratic Rep. Benjamin Nageak of Barrow had indicated in testimony Wednesday that he would be pulling out of his lawsuit. But during testimony Thursday, Nageak, who uses a hearing aid in the Legislature, said he was unable to hear the questions and answered incorrectly when he addressed the court via phone from Massachusetts, The Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/2dpugmJ).
“I’m sorry, I’ve been over on the other side of the world, and I couldn’t hardly hear anybody,” Nageak said. “I was in a really crowded place yesterday, in the middle of the street, sirens were blaring, and I’m in a quiet place now. I don’t want to be dropped from the lawsuit.”
Nageak is challenging the outcome of the House District 40 race, citing errors in how the election was conducted.
A recount confirmed Democrat Dean Westlake beat Nageak by eight votes.
The trial for the lawsuit began this week after initial questions about Nageak’s status in the legal battle came about.
His attorney, Tim McKeever, had filed a Sept. 23 motion to withdraw Nageak from the lawsuit and replace him with several North Slope voters. Under state law, an election challenge can be filed either by the losing candidate or by 10 voters.
The state and Westlake’s attorney, Thomas Amodio, argue that Nageak wants out of the suit and that the addition of voters was an attempt to allow him to leave while continuing the suit.
Nageak said he was unaware of the motion filed by his attorney.
The trial is expected to end Monday.
Judge Andrew Guidi, who is overseeing the proceedings, said the case “is apparently inevitably bound for appeal.”
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com