Out of six applicants, three names were forwarded to Gov. Mike Dunleavy to fill the District 30 seat until a new legislator is sworn in in January. The district currently lacks representation since the untimely death of Rep. Gary Knopp a July midair plane collision.
The three chosen by the District 30 committee are Ron Gillham, Derek Leichliter, and Charlene Tautfest.
Gillham is a candidate for the seat and his name is already on the ballot for Tuesday’s Primary Election. He was the leading challenger for Knopp until Knopp’s death and is now considered to be likely to win on Tuesday, as he is endorsed by the Republican Party, his district GOP, the Republican women’s clubs on the Peninsula, and the PFD Defenders. Knopp had been sanctioned by the party for his betrayal of his Republican colleagues.
Tautfest ran for mayor of Soldotna after the death of former Mayor Nels Anderson. She serves on the Alaska Mental Health Board and has served on the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness and the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education.
Leichliter is a lifelong Alaskan, born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula. He is an electrician and the owner of Legacy Electric.
When such a vacancy occurs, the governor typically will choose from the three names the district leaders of the party offer. In this case, the governor may not appoint a fill-in person, but would absolutely need to appoint one if he calls a special session for the purpose of legislative confirmation of his boards and commissions picks, as well as his commissioner of Revenue, Lucinda Mahoney. That pick would have to be ratified by Republicans in the House, led by House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt.
The governor could also ask for more names, but the custom is that he interviews the three persons forwarded by the district’s grassroots party activists.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy hasn’t indicated what he’ll do, but party insiders say he’s not likely to take up the task until after the Primary.
Others who applied included James Baisden, who is running as a Republican petition candidate on the General Election ballot. Baisden originally positioned himself to take on Knopp, should Knopp win the Primary, but now the various players in this race will have to wait until after Tuesday to see if the deceased man wins. Voting has been underway for nearly two weeks. The Two others who applied were the former Kenai Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, and Mary Jackson, a well-known, longtime grassroots volunteer. Both are Republicans.