Governor Bill Walker ignored recommendations from the Republic party in making his appointment to replace Senator Mike Dunleavy, who resigned in January to concentrate on his race for the governor’s office. As per Alaska statute, the party submitted three candidates, but the governor chose to go with a fourth person. The governor is not bound to appoint someone from the list submitted.
Walker announced Friday he was appointing Randall Kowalke of Willow to replace Dunleavy. Kowalke currently services on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly. He is a former director of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance and board member of the Resource Development Council and has worked in oilfield services and telecommunications, according to Walker’s office.
“Randall is the best person to represent this district,” Governor Walker said. “He brings a wealth of perspective to the Senate at this critical moment in Alaska’s history and will do an excellent job representing the values of the people of Senate District E.”
Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock criticized the governor in an email sent to Republican senators on Friday, and called for the senators – who still have to affirm the appointment – to not do so.
Babcock wrote in the letter, “If all three names submitted by the ARP were unacceptable to Governor Walker, there was an obvious alternative. Simply ask the ARP to reconsider and send some additional nominees.”
Babcock asked the senators to stand with the will of those who represent the district and reject the appointment.
“At this point, we see no alternative to the strange action of the Governor but to stand firm with the people who have been elected to represent their Districts, the volunteers who serve in Senate District E. I am absolutely confident the Republican members of the Alaska State Senate will reject the Governor's high-handed, arrogant action.”
Babcock was also critical of the governor for not providing any indication that he was not going to appoint from the list submitted by the party.
“We are now 24 days later, and without so much as a whisper of communication, the Governor has unilaterally picked a name out of the hat,” wrote Babcock.
Dunleavy, who is vying to run against Walker, said in a press release about the appointment, “He chose to ignore the elected nominees of the Republican District leaders. His decision is an affront to these men and women who literally spent hundreds of hours vetting 11 different applicants for this seat.”
Dunleavy also directly attacked Walker’s performance in office.
“The crucial question is this: Who owns this seat – the voters of District E, or Governor Walker?” Dunleavy said. “The Governor has chosen to substitute his own judgment for the views of local leaders. This kind of arrogance has become a trademark of this Governor, and it gravely erodes public confidence that their representative in Juneau is there to represent their values, instead of the Governor’s personal agenda. Once again, Governor Walker ignores the will of the people.”
Walker also went outside of the submitted appointments to replace Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned prior to the start of the session after allocations of misconduct. In that situation, candidates submitted by the Democrat Party to replace Westlake came under scrutiny following their submittal to the governor. The House Democrats approved Walker’s candidate, John Lincoln. Lincoln works for NANA Regional Corporation.
Walker gave no reason for his decision to not appoint one of the individuals recommended by the Republican Party. Rep. George Rauscher, who represents the house district that encompasses half of the senate district, which includes Delta Junction, was one of the individuals forwarded for nomination by the Republican Party.
The other two names submitted by the party were Tom Braund and Todd Smolden, both from the Mat-Su Valley.