Republican officers of District E expressed concern this week that Gov. Bill Walker is secretly contacting people of the district to appoint his own replacement for Sen. Mike Dunleavy.
He is contacting people not on the list of three offered to him by Alaska Republican Party district chairs.
Word has leaked that as many as five people have been contacted by the Governor’s Office for an interview. At least one has already told the governor that he prefers to honor the process.
The district officers had already vetted applicants through an organized and transparent process, and offered the governor three names to replace Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who has resigned the Senate in order to run for governor.
The party-recommended three are District 9 Rep. George Rauscher, Todd Smoldon, and Tom Braund. District 9 and 10 met in a combined meeting and considered 11 applicants, interviewed five, and recommended three.
At least 45 people in the party participated in the vetting of applicants, a process that was overseen by Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock. The participants followed party rules and spent a combined 500 hours on the decision.
“I am deeply concerned that before the governor even interviewed the three people offered by the party, he is contacting others, some of whom did not make the short list. How could this not be seen as disrespectful to the committed volunteers representing the people of District E?” said Babcock.
District E is a conservative stronghold that reaches from Wasilla to Valdez. In 2014, former Gov. Sean Parnell won the district handily with the exception of Talkeetna and Valdez, which is Walker’s hometown.
“While vetting applicants, my district found some to have conflicting interests with various people groups in our district. I am hoping the Governor will pick from our list to avoid such conflicts,” said Carol Carman, Republican Chair for District 9. Carman said the committee worked long hours and submitted their names in a timely manner to the governor.
But the governor has shown a proclivity to ignore party recommendations and pick his own. After Democrat Rep. Dean Westlake resigned his seat in December, the governor ignored the three names recommended by the Democratic Party and chose a Kotzebue resident — not even a Democrat — who had not even applied for the District 40 seat.
That appointment came on Thursday, and the House Democrats, who have been embracing unaffiliated candidates in order to win elections, approved the governor’s choice of John Lincoln.
The Republican Party State Central Committee is meeting in Juneau today and is weighing a resolution to scold the governor for disprespecting the process.