Alaska lawmaker accused of hitting woman while drinking resigns from office

Image: State Rep. Zach Fansler
State Rep. Zach Fansler during a House news conference in Anchorage, Alaska, after the 2016 general election on Nov. 9, 2016.Mark Thiessen / AP file

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/ Source: Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska lawmaker is resigning after being accused of hitting a woman during a night of drinking last month, the second rural Alaska representative to leave office under a cloud in recent months.

The resignation of first-term Democratic state Rep. Zach Fansler of Bethel was announced on the House floor Friday and will be effective Feb. 12.

Zach FanslerMark Thiessen / AP file

Fansler had faced pressure to resign from House leaders for nearly a week, since the Juneau Empire reported last Saturday that a woman had accused him of hitting her shortly before the legislative session began last month.

House leaders had already reassigned Fansler's staff and asked that he turn in his office keys.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon told reporters he had spoken with Fansler "at least a couple of times" this week and made it clear that the caucus continued to seek his resignation.

Edgmon said Fansler did good work as a legislator and it's been a difficult issue for Fansler, the caucus and Fansler's district.

Fansler's attorney, Wally Tetlow of Anchorage, on Saturday said his client denied the allegations against him. Tetlow has not returned messages since then.

Fansler's departure will mean there will be another vacancy in the House. He is the second member in two months to resign from the House majority coalition, which is comprised largely of Democrats.

Related: Here’s a list of political figures accused of sexual misconduct

In December, another first-term representative, Democrat Dean Westlake of Kotzebue, resigned after being accused by female aides of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. Westlake has said he's sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable.

Westlake's replacement took office on Wednesday.