On Thursday, after three days of political grief and grumbling, Gov. Bill Walker asked the Alaska Republican Party to provide him with additional names of people to serve as the senator for District E. The seat has been vacant since Sen. Mike Dunleavy resigned to run for governor on Jan. 15.
Walker made the request to Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock through his chief of staff Scott Kendall on Thursday night.
By Friday evening, Babcock had worked with House District 9 and 10 chairs and the Republicans forwarded these names:
- Christopher Kurka of Palmer, District 9, former executive director of Alaska Right to Life and owner of an accounting business
- Vicky Wallner of Palmer, District 9, a businesswoman and founder of Stop Valley Thieves Facebook page
- Mike Shower of Wasilla, District 10, a FedEx pilot and former USAF pilot
- Doyle Holmes of Palmer, District 10, a businessman and Republican Party District 10 chair.
Babcock had already forwarded Wallner’s name to the governor.
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The drama began last Friday, when Walker appointed Randall Kowalke to fill the vacancy. Kowalke didn’t have the support of the districts or the volunteers who had spent hundreds of hours looking for candidates. They were insulted that Walker dismissed their efforts, refused to communicate with them, and and then picked someone they had not put on the short list.
Senate President Pete Kelly then sent word that he’d rather the governor work with the district. But Walker shot back, demanding that Senate Republicans vote Kowalke up or down.
They voted him down and provided this statement:
“This morning, Gov. Bill Walker’s nominee to the District E Senate Seat, Randall Kowalke, failed to be confirmed after Senate Republicans met to decide the issue.
This morning’s decision followed efforts yesterday by Senate Republicans encouraging the governor to reconsider his choice and work through the traditional process in support of the people of District E.
On behalf of Senate Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) released the following statement.
“We believe the people of District E should be given an opportunity to fill the seat with a candidate they support through the traditional process, which is designed to respect the will of the voters. The seat does not belong to us in the Senate, or the governor. The seat belongs to the people of District E.”
Within hours Walker named US Marine veteran Tom Braund to fill the seat. But Braund withdrew within the day, and the governor’s chief of staff sent out a blistering statement about the Republican Party.
“To be clear, the Governor absolutely does not endorse any of the three nominees sent to him by the Republican Party, including Thomas Braund. The Senate Republicans rejected the Governor’s nominee—Randall Kowalke—and then publicly demanded that he appoint one of the three nominees endorsed by Party officials. Essentially, they announced they would deprive the people in Senate District E of representation unless this demand was met. The Governor does believe that District E is entitled to representation. Accordingly, all questions regarding Mr. Braund’s fitness and qualifications for office should be directed to the Republican Party— who did vet Mr. Braund and, by vote, endorsed his beliefs as acceptable to them—as well as to the Senate Republicans who rejected Mr. Kowalke and specifically requested such a Party-approved nominee. The Alaska Republican Party and the Senate Republicans now have the nominee they demanded.” – Scott Kendall, Chief of Staff
The governor’s work to replace former Rep. Dean Westlake in District 40 took a much different and more friendly tone:
“Under state law, the governor could appoint any democrat from the district, but he has certainly been committed to engaging in a conversation with the district leaders in House District 40 and has been very appreciative of the process they went through, because the end result is to find the democrat who represents the values of House District 40 and is prepared to serve. So, he’s definitely been engaged in trying to find a path forward that will lead to that.” – Austin Baird, press secretary to Gov. Bill Walker, as quoted by the Arctic Sounder