Kowalke is governor’s pick for Senate Seat E



Randall Kowalke, who won his assembly seat in the Mat-Su with the help of 73 percent of Talkeetna voters, is Gov. Bill Walker’s choice for Senate Seat E, the seat that represents some of the most conservative communities in the state.

District E stretches from Wasilla to Glennallen, Delta Junction, Tok, and Valdez and even Whittier — and liberal stronghold Talkeetna, where they elect cats as their mayor.

District E has been unrepresented since mid-January, when Mike Dunleavy left the Senate to focus on his run for governor.

Walker chose not to draw from the list of three names forwarded by Republicans in the district, but instead found a kindred spirit in Kowalke, who has been a supporter of Walker’s.

Kowalke is a retired businessman who worked in wood products, oil and telecommunications and who serves on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, a seat he won by 33 votes in 2015 against his political adversary, Doyle Holmes.

Kowalke was the first to file for Dunleavy’s seat, doing so on Dec. 31, 2017 after Dunleavy rejoined the race for governor. The Kowalke pick could allow a coup to take place in the Senate, and could put Democrats in charge with the help of a couple of willing Republicans. Several Democrats have alluded that this is part of their plan to “flip the Senate.”

Carol Carman, who is the Republican chair for House District 9, expressed her disappointment, as she and other party officers spent over 500 hours vetting 11 applicants, Kowalke among them. He did not make the final but was near the bottom of the list.

Kowalke, who is a registered Republican, was a Walker supporter in 2014, and is an ally of Borough Mayor Vern Halter, who ran with the express support of Democrats and unions. He is also close with Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle, an unaffiliated voter who co-hosted a fundraiser for Walker this past fall.

But will the Senate accept Kowalke? The Senate Republicans will decide, and they have gaveled out until Monday morning. But it is not likely they will concur with the pick. The governor probably has been told the nomination is dead on arrival.

Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party who facilitated the process of forwarding names to the governor, said the pick is unacceptable.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that the governor will go against the wishes of the district. The Senate should absolutely vote him down,” he said, as he drove from Anchorage to his home in Kenai today.

Reached in Wasilla, gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy was also unimpressed with the pick for his former seat, because he felt it disrespects a well-organized vetting process by constituents.

“The critical question is this: Who owns the seat? The voters of District E or Gov. Walker? The governor has a chosen to substitute his own judgment for the views of local leaders,” Dunleavy said.

Walker should have asked District leaders to send him three more names before going off the list provided to him, Dunleavy added.

The district had sent him the names of Rep. George Rauscher, Todd Smoldon, and Tom Braund of the 11 who applied.

Senate President Pete Kelly signaled the response from Senate Republicans: “While we recognize a fine choice by the governor in Mr. Kowalke, we would prefer the governor work through the traditional process involving local participation from the districts. The Senate Republicans will meet next week to discuss the governor’s appointment.


In 2015, the Mat-Su Borough election came down to votes from Talkeetna, where the ballot counting machine had stopped working. The ballots were collected and placed in a sealed bag, and then counted by another machine, but during that process, an election clerk from Houston, Alaska was left alone with the ballots for 90 minutes.

Holmes said that since the election official and the clerk were each alone with the ballots for an extended period of time, tampering may have occurred. In liberal Talkeetna, 73 percent of the votes went to Kowalke, while only 27 percent went to Holmes. In the rest of the district, Holmes had held the lead. But his claim was denied and with 33 votes (less than 2 percent of the vote), Kowalke was sworn in. Liberal Talkeetna had pulled him over the line.  Now, in a twist of fate, he is poised to become senator for the entire district.


Some call District E the Bible Belt of Alaska, while others describe it as the “Highways District” because it encompasses the Glenn, Richardson, and the Parks Highways.

But it’s also a place where Southcentral Alaska meets Southeast Alaska, as it reaches both Valdez and Whittier, and ferries are important, especially in Whittier, while ocean fishing is important in both communities.

Valdez, clearly Bill Walker country, has massive property tax revenues from oil export facilities there, and residents in Valdez have a different world view than many communities in Alaska, due to a constant flow of funds. And uber-liberal Talkeetna is also in the district, one of the biggest Bernie Sanders voting blocks in the state.

In essence, District E is a cultural melting pot of non-urban Alaska.


  1. You should be ashamed of posting this slanderous report. I expect gross exaggeration and innuendo from the left in the ADN and Frontiersman, but it isn’t any more palatable when it comes from the right. An obvious RINO? Where is the proof of that? Kowalke, a long-time registered Republican, has done an admirable job of representing his MSB district, my district, as a principled conservative. He led the charge in calling the MSB School District to task and was instrumental in upholding Mayor Vern Halter’s veto to deny the school district’s outrageous and unsupportable budget demands last year. That took considerable political courage, and it isn’t consistent with the actions of a lefty RINO. I find your insinuation of wrongdoing on the part of the Houston Clerk particularly offensive, bordering on libel. The Houston Clerk is a State of Alaska and MSB sworn election official who is charged with safeguarding ballots, something that was done at the request of the MSB Clerk. If this is to be a political/news website to be taken seriously, you need to refrain from casually posting as facts the unsubstantiated rants of those with sour grapes.

  2. I didn’t have a voice in this, BUT, is walker was a true person, instead of a puppet, he would have chosen one of the 3 submitted to him!! Instead, he has chosen to believe that he knows better than the actual laws of fair play!!!

  3. The pick of Lincoln to replace Westlake foreshadowed this pick. I wonder what it feels like for John Lincoln to have confirmation that he is a stooge hand picked by the worst governor in the history of this state, I suppose he already knew that though.

  4. Stevie Wonder could see this coming! One thing about the governor, he is consistent in his decision making. Fortunately for us, his constant missteps will be beneficial in November. Bye Bye Mr. Gasline obsession guy…

  5. Hey, Dunleavy, stop the caterwauling. You resigned. You quit. You’re the reason the Governor had to make a pick in the first place. Why? Because the prospect of garnering more campaign money is more important to you than fulfilling your obligation to complete your term. You irresponsibly abdicate you’re duties as an elected public official while seeking higher public office. Pathetic. You’re so Palinesque. You’re a quitter. Stop the whining.

  6. My take on the appointment of Mr Kowalke by Governor Walker is the governor wants to break up the conservative group who controls the Alaska State Senate. A politician cannot be all that conservative and win 73% of the vote from Talkeetna, a bastion of liberal think. Governor Walker appointed a supporter of his candidacy, thinking that Mr Kowalke will again support him in the Senate and go along with the new taxes that Governor Walker thinks we need.

  7. Walker and his cheerleaders need to remember that he wouldn’t have even made the state ballot had not a state judge (John Suddock) rewrite state election law on the fly to allow Walker’s independent run and the democrat ticket to combine after the drop dead date.

    Perhaps he thinks another liberal judge will rewrite state law on appointing replacements to the legislature. Given the way he got into office, I wouldn’t bet against it. Cheers –

  8. This guy will likely not get confirmed by the Senate. He has a very poor reputation with the Valley delegation. Another bad move by Walker. And the beat goes on!

  9. If that person were truly a Republican, and interested in a future role in the Republican Party, he would withdraw his name, and then not only force walker to appoint from the list sent to him. This would allow him to further his political career to go forward. If he does not do this, I would for see that he will go down in flames in the next general election.

  10. a second thought would be for this reporter to reach out to Kowalke and speak with him. As a valley republican I was shocked that he got as much of the liberal vote as he did. maybe it was the liberals picking the less of two evils. do a little digging on Doyle holmes and you might see why they picked Kowalke.

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