Palin's AG nominee rejected by Republican-led Legislature

Chris Rizo Apr. 17, 2009, 10:00am

Sarah Palin (R)

JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline)-Gov. Sarah Palin's nominee for Alaska attorney general has been rejected by state lawmakers, dealing the Republican a setback as she jockeys for a role in the national party.

The Republican governor had tapped Wayne Anthony Ross, a leader of the National Rifle Association and two-time gubernatorial candidate, to serve as the state's next chief legal officer.

Ross's nomination was rejected Thursday by a vote of 35-23 in a joint session of the Republican-led state Legislature. The vote marks the first time that a nominee to head an Alaska agency has failed confirmation. Nine Republicans, including the House speaker and the Senate president, joined 26 Democrats in rejecting Palin's nominee.

The vote in Juneau came as Republican National Chairman Michael Steele was hailing Palin as a GOP leader at a right-to-life dinner in Evansville, Ind.

Appearing before lawmakers at his confirmation hearings, it became increasingly apparent that Ross's appointment was not going be a smooth process. He was peppered with questions about his position on a range of issues, including subsistence and tribal sovereignty for which Native Alaskan leaders have opposed his nomination.

Palin -- and Ross -- drew fire from native Alaska groups, including from the Association of Village Council Presidents, which provides social services to Alaska Natives.

Ross, during his 2002 gubernatorial run, pledged to "hire a band of 'junkyard dog' assistant attorney generals to challenge the federal law that requires a subsistence preference" for native groups.

"Nobody ever accused me of tippy toeing around the issues. Now I'm asking for this job of advocating for Alaska, for the state that I love almost as much as I love my wife," Ross told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Ross was also asked how he would handle situations similar to the ones encountered by former Attorney General Talis Colberg while Palin was the center of an ethics probe at the same time she was the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Colberg, a Palin appointee, was criticized by some lawmakers for being more loyal to the governor's political interests than he was interested in being an advocate for Alaskans.

Ross said he would serve the interests of the state rather than of the governor.

"My duties to the law come first. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that of the State of Alaska. I didn't take an oath to support and defend the governor," Ross said.

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