Sen. Mike Dunleavy is stepping down from the Alaska Senate so he can focus on his race for governor.
He covered his district from Glennallen to Palmer on Saturday, visiting with people in the district and at the local Republican district conventions. He talked to “his employers” — the people he represents — about the decision.
Dunleavy was also featured along with gubernatorial candidate Scott Hawkins at a Republican event on Saturday night, where he spoke to 80 people at a fundraiser and auction for the party.
Dunleavy represents Senate District E and his term ends in January 2019. Even if he didn’t resign, he would not represent this district next year. But by stepping aside now, he will focus on fundraising, something he would otherwise be prohibited from doing once the legislative session started on Jan. 16, and something that is essential for any competitive candidate.
State law prevents sitting legislators from raising funds while the Legislature is in session, a problem that Rep. Mike Chenault faces in his run for governor.
The prohibition likely factored in to Sen. Charlie Huggins’ retirement from the Senate last year, as he is also a candidate for governor. Ironically, the sitting governor himself is under no such restrictions.
Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, says that under the party’s rules, (Article 1, Section 8), the district committees of the affected areas — House Districts 9 and 10 — will meet, notify the public of the vacancy, gather applications, verify the candidates’ qualification, and forward three names to the governor. The governor will make his pick, which then must be confirmed by Republican members of the Senate.
Mat-Su Borough Assembly member Randall Kowalke has already filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission for the District E seat as a candidate for the August primary.
Pam Goode of Delta Junction has filed as a candidate, but has not indicated whether she’s trying for the House or Senate. She recently returned to the Republican Party after being a registered member of the Alaska Constitution Party.
Rep. George Rauscher and Rep. David Eastman are both considering applying for appointment to Dunleavy’s seat. Rauscher confirmed late Saturday that he will be submitting his letter of interest to the party’s district leaders when Dunleavy made an announcement. Eastman said he was talking to people in the district and had not made up his mind.
Last year, during the budget deliberations in the Senate, Dunleavy removed himself from the Republican Majority caucus over a disagreement about whether to cut the Permanent Fund dividend that Alaskans receive each year. Two years ago, Gov. Bill Walker cut the dividend in half, and during 2017, the Senate continued the practice. Dunleavy has been an advocate of fully funding the dividend under the previous formula.
Dunleavy earlier this week announced he had hired campaign staff of Brett Huber for his campaign manager and Amanda Price as deputy campaign manager. He appears to be 100 percent committed to his campaign, which is why it comes as no surprise that he is withdrawing from the Senate before session starts on Jan. 17.