The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Resignation leaves Valdez without representation in the State Senate

Officials say they will move swiftly to fill Dunleavy's seat as Legislature opens

 

January 17, 2018

Valdez Star file photo

Former state senator Mike Dunleavy during a 2015 visit with constituents in Valdez.

Valdez has no senate representation in the Alaska Legislature as lawmakers return to Juneau for the first session of the 30th legislature following the resignation of Mike Dunleavy, who quit his elected position Monday to focus on his campaign for governor.

However, officials with the Alaska Republican Party said last week they will move quickly to nominate candidates to fill the vacant seat for Senate District E, which includes Valdez.

As of Monday, there were 12 nominees up for consideration – including Tom Arts of Valdez. Arts is a former school board member and retired postal employee who currently works for Valdez City Schools as a janitor.

Rep. George Rauscher, who represents Valdez and the rest of House District 9 in the Alaska House, is also a contender, as is an old rival, former representative Jim Colver. Rauscher bested Colver in the 2016 primary elections after Colver lost party support for alleged bipartisanship with House Democrats.

Other confirmed candidates include - Tom Braund; Bob Bickel; Eddie Grasser; Doyle Holmes; Randall Kowalke; Mike Shower; Todd Smolden; Vicki Wallner.

Tucker Babcock, chairman of Alaska's republican party, said party officials from Senate District E were slated to begin meeting Monday to vet the applicants and nominate a handful for Gov. Bill Walker's consideration for appointment to fill Dunleavy's empty seat. Walker must submit his final choice within 30 days of Dunleavy's resignation, which became official Monday. Walker's nominee will then need to be approved by Senate Republicans.

Dunleavy said in a press release last week that he felt he could best serve his constituents by stepping down and focusing on his run for governor.

The Associated Press reports that Babcock said while he has political disagreements with Walker, a former Republican no longer registered with a party, he thinks Walker will make a responsible decision in appointment Dunleavy's successor.

Dunleavy last month jumped back into the race after putting his campaign on hold last year to deal with health issues. He said those issues have been addressed.

Dunleavy, who was first elected to the Senate in 2012, left the Republican-led Senate majority last year over concerns that more had not been cut from the budget. He also didn't support a proposed change to distribution of Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.

He called the decision a matter of conscience though some saw the move, at that time, as the conservative positioning himself for a gubernatorial run.

The decision to leave the caucus in some ways limited Dunleavy's effectiveness to push his agenda in the Legislature.

Rep. George Rauscher

By resigning, he can work toward gaining traction for his campaign in a way he might not have been able to as a legislator. State law places restrictions on fundraising by lawmakers while the Legislature is in session.

Dunleavy is among a number of Republicans who so far have expressed interest in running for governor, including Rep. Mike Chenault, former state lawmaker Charlie Huggins and businessman Scott Hawkins.

Walker is seeking re-election. He won with support of Alaska Democrats in 2014 but that isn't assured this time.

Dunleavy's departure means the House and Senate both will have to fill vacancies.

Democratic state Rep. Dean Westlake resigned last month amid accusations of inappropriate behavior.

 

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