The Republican committee charged vetting candidates to replace Sen. Mike Dunleavy, District E, forwarded three conservative candidates to Gov. Walker for consideration:
- Rep. George Rauscher, who represents District 9
- Todd Smoldon, economics educator and District 10 precinct leader
- Tom Braund, retired federal worker and District 9 precinct leader
In the rounds of voting that took place over several hours, over 200 votes were cast by the committee. Only two of those votes were for former Rep. Jim Colver, who had put his letter of interest before the committee prior to the deadline. He did not get an interview.
Colver had been ousted by voters in 2016 by now-Rep. Rauscher. The party also withdrew support for Colver when he and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux led a breakaway group, the Musk Ox Coalition, that aligned with the Democrats. Because Colver submitted his name in time, there is always the chance the governor will skip over the Republicans’ chosen and pick his clear political ally. However, a Colver choice would have to get past the Alaska Senate, which would be a tough sell.
These appointments don’t always go smoothly. Gov. Sarah Palin got into a standoff with Senate Democrats in 2009 over a replacement for Sen. Kim Elton, who went to work for the Obama Administration. Senators would not confirm her choices until she picked former Juneau mayor Dennis Egan, who was confirmed and still serves as Juneau’s senator.
The selection committee interviewed five people and deliberated late into the night:
- George Rausher
- Todd Smoldon
- Tom Braund
- Vicki Wallner
- Tom Arts
The committee went to a majority voting method, meaning each had to get over 50 percent of the vote to become one of the three finalists on the list that will be given to the governor. The governor now will nominate the person to succeed Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who has stepped down in order to run for governor, and the Alaska Senate will confirm. The chosen successor would have to run to retain the seat later this year.
District E stretches from the Mat-Su Valley over to Valdez.