GOVERNOR DIGS IN, SAYS SENATE NEEDS TO VOTE NOMINEE UP OR DOWN
Gov. Bill Walker wrote a letter to Senate President Pete Kelly and Majority Leader Peter Micciche today, saying he has no intention of withdrawing the name of Randall Kowalke, who he has appointed to fill the seat vacated by Mike Dunleavy.
Kowalke’s appointment is controversial because both he and the governor have, in essence, thumbed their noses at the Alaska Republican Party, which did not recommend Kowalke for the conservative seat.
District Republicans met in January and, with 45 people participating and a total of more than 500 hours of work, forwarded three names to the governor: Tom Braund, Todd Smoldon, and Rep. George Rauscher. Kowalke’s name was far down the list in their selection process, although he has filed a letter of intent to run for the seat this year.
District E became vacant when Mike Dunleavy withdrew from the Senate to focus on his run for governor.
Walker’s move is not only a slap to the Republicans in the district, but has an election-year overtone, since he is being challenged by Dunleavy for governor. On Monday, Senate Republicans told the governor in a letter that he needed to go back to the district and get some more names.
Today’s salvo from the Governor’s Office was unyielding.
Gov. Walker wrote to Senate President Kelly and Majority Leader Micciche:
“I have received your letter regarding my recent appointment of Randall Kowalke to the vacant seat for Senate District E.
The ﬁlling of a legislative vacancy is governed by Alaska Constitution, Article II, Section 4 and AS 15.40.3520. The process outlined by the statutes generally involves three steps: (1) legislative vacancy occurs; (2) Governor has 30 days to appoint someone from the House or Senate district who is from the same political party as the legislator that vacated the office and meets the qualiﬁcations set forth in the Alaska Constitution for election to legislative office; and (3) once the Governor has made an appointment, the appointee must be conﬁrmed by a majority of members of the same political party from the legislative body for which the appointment was made. If the appointee fails to be conﬁrmed, the Governor has an additional 10 days to appoint another person to the office, followed by another conﬁrmation vote. Nowhere in statute or the Alaska Constitution does it require the Governor to select names from a list provided by a political party; instead, the selection of names from a list has been a tradition that is only outlined in the bylaws of the Alaska Democratic and Republican parties.
“While I appreciate your concern for the Republican party’s selection process, I am a non-partisan Governor and my decisions are not based on the wishes or demands of any one party. Rather, my appointment of Mr. Kowalke was based solely on my sincere desire to make the best decisions for all Alaskans, including the residents of Senate District E. Mr. Kowalke is a respected leader in his community and an elected member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly with broad support. His extensive private and public service in a wide array of sectors, and longstanding volunteer civic service to state and community, demonstrates a commitment of service to the people of Alaska and an understanding of the issues confronting us. I received more positive input in support of Mr. Kowalke from the local elected ofﬁcials and residents in the Matanuska-Susitna area than for all the other applicants combined. In fact, I was encouraged to appoint Mr. Kowalke from your own Senate Majority, recommendations which I took very seriously. [underscore is ours] Mr. Kowalke has the integrity, dedication, political acumen and work ethic necessary to be a productive member of the Senate Majority and the best person to represent District E in the State Senate.
“In closing, I have no intention of delaying the selection process by requesting additional names from the Republican party while my current appointment is still pending. Should the Senate Republicans choose to reject Mr. Kowalke’s appointment, I will forward another name for consideration pursuant to requirements in the Alaska Constitution and State law.
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PARTY CHAIRMAN’S RESPONSE
Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, urged Senate Republicans to respect local Republicans and vote the governor’s nominee down. He called the governor’s letter “arrogant.”
In a letter to the senators, Babcock wrote:
“The Governor’s arrogant response to your letter dated February 13, 2018 and his dismissal of decades of tradition involving the actual people who live and work in the respective legislative District, deserves a swift and unambiguous response. That is a vote not to confirm the Governor’s personal favorite for Republican Senator.
“The Alaska Republican Party is asking you to honor the nominations made by the local volunteers. They have more say and more at stake in who the new Republican Senator is from Senate District E than does the so-called “Independent” Governor. Legislative seats are filled by the voters of the district, legislative vacancies are not just another of the Governor’s cabinet appointments.
“It is surely the view of every tin pot dictator in history that they, and they alone, know what is best for all. It is rare to see such naked arrogance displayed in writing as evidenced in the Governor’s February 13 response to your conciliatory letter.
“I noticed the Governor attempted to implicate Republican Senators in his action to dispense with tradition and substitute his preference, and his preference alone, as to who should fill the Republican Senate vacancy from Seat E. I find it hard to believe that any Republican Senator would actually encourage the Governor to ignore the volunteers of the Alaska Republican Party.
“Perhaps it is time for the Legislature to consider removing the Governor from having any role in appointing Legislators. Nothing in the State Constitution requires the Governor to be involved.
“There is but one course in the face of the arrogance and hubris displayed by Governor Walker: Voting not to confirm his Republican Senate appointment until he appoints someone from a list provided by the local Republicans of Senate District E.
“Earlier this week, the entire Mat-Su delegation wrote a letter to the governor supporting the local volunteers’ efforts and requesting he respect their wishes.”