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Palin's AG nominee becomes entangled in state Senate seat flap

Gov. Sarah Palin late Wednesday reappointed Tim Grussendorf to the open state Senate seat in spite of Senate Democrats already rejecting him for the job. The ongoing war between lawmakers and Palin over the seat is now spilling into other areas, including her choice for attorney general.

Palin's appointee for Alaska attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, is up for a confirmation vote of the Legislature today. Lawmakers said Wednesday that Ross' chances are being jeopardized by his role in the fight over the Senate seat, and that they now expect the vote on his confirmation to be close.

"The conversation (about Ross) in the halls today has changed as a result of the legal advice he supposedly provided Gov. Palin with respect to this Senate vacancy replacement. ... It brings the question back up again as to whether the attorney general ought to be neutral and serve on behalf of Alaskans as opposed to serving at the pleasure of the governor," said Anchorage Republican Sen. Lesil McGuire, who said she will still likely vote in favor of Ross.

The conflict is over a state Senate seat vacant since March 2, when longtime Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton resigned for a job in the Obama administration. The law says Palin needs a majority of the nine Senate Democrats to approve her pick for Elton's replacement. They rejected her first two picks, Grussendorf and Joe Nelson. Palin then re-submitted the names of Grussendorf and Nelson on Tuesday night, along with that of Alan Wilson, a Juneau contractor opposed in part because he just became a Democrat on March 4. The governor said Senate Democrats could choose among them.

But legislative lawyer Pam Finley wrote a memo Wednesday saying "the governor's presenting more than one name at a time to fill a vacancy in the state Legislature does not comply with state law." Ross signed off on Palin submitting multiple names and he raised eyebrows in the Legislature with his reaction to a reporter Wednesday morning when first shown the memo calling it illegal.

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