Walker asks GOP for more nominees to fill vacant Senate seat

Snow falls in March 2017 in front of the Alaska Capitol in Downtown Juneau

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - UPDATED:This story has been updated to reflect Gov. Walker's request to the Republican party for more nominations.

Tom Braund, who was selected by Gov. Walker to fill a vacant senate seat, has withdrawn his name from consideration after considering the impact holding office would have on the relationship with his "closest friend." Now, Walker is asking the Republican party for more nominations.

Walker selected Braund late Wednesday, after Senate Republicans rejected the governor's first pick, Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, because he was not on the list submitted to the governor by republicans in Senate District E.

And in another development Thursday, the chairman of the state Republican Party, Tuckerman Babcock, submitted a fourth name to Walker: Vicki Wellner, an anti-crime activist in the Mat-Su Borough.

The seat was vacated by former Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who left office to focus on his run for governor against Walker.

By Thursday afternoon, Braund had submitted his letter of withdrawal to the governor.

"I have had a turn in events that cause me to examine a critical decision," Braund wrote.

"I am coming from the position that God said essentially, relationships are more important than institutions. My closest friend has needs and I am her provider," he wrote in part, "She has told me to go for this Senate seat she knows I've poured my heart into. I told her, YOU are more important to me and God than Alaska. So I must decline," he continued.

Braund said his decision did not have anything to do with the media's coverage of controversial statements on his social media page, and said the decision had, "little to do" with his unfamiliarity with processes in Juneau or issues. "I know enough. I would be on a big learning curve and am highly qualified to learn."

[Walker names man who recalls life in womb to vacant Senate seat]

Braund started the final paragraph of his letter: "In making this decision, I realize I will disappoint many who have wanted my style of duty for so long, some who have worked long hours to make this happen to get one from this list of 3." He continued, "I must turn this offer down; please forgive me. I apologize to you for any disappointment I may have caused but I will never need to apologize to God for it."

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Walker's chief of staff, Scott Kendall, released a statement saying that the Governor "absolutely does not endorrse any of the three nominees sent to him by the Republican party, including Thomas Braund," (emphasis in original). The statement said that Senate Republicans' rejection of Kowalke, and demand that one of the three party-endorsed people be selected was essentially an announcement that "they would deprive the people in Senate District E of representation unless this demand was met."

[A stalemate brews over Dunleavy replacement]

Kendall said in the statement that, "all questions regarding Braund's fitness and qualifications for office should be directed to the Republican Party -- who did vet Mr. Braund and, by vote, endorsed his beliefs as acceptable to them."

Now, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker says the local republicans have submitted one more name to the governor for consideration, Vicky Wallner, who's known for starting the Facebook group "Stop Valley Thieves."

In a letter to the chair of the Alaska Republican Party, Walker's chief of staff, Scott Kendall, asked for two more names, along with resumes and other documentation.

Kendall also pointed out in the letter, "Please take this letter as notice that we have interviewed, considered, and are now rejecting the other two names on your original list, Representative George Rauscher and Mr. Todd Smoldon."

Rauscher, once thought to be the leading candidate for the job, fell off the list when a blogger, Jeff Landfield, photographed a sticker on Rauscher's Capitol door that said, "BDSM Free Zone."

The words, and an abbreviation for bondage, sadomasochism and other kinky sexual behavior, referred to a text sent by former Rep. Zach Fansler to the woman he struck after a drunken night out in Juneau. But if Rauscher thought he was making a joke, Walker didn't think it was funny or a matter to be treated lightly, said spokesman Austin Baird.

Channel 2's Rich Mauer contributed to this story.



 
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