A stalemate brews over Dunleavy replacement

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) A political stalemate was brewing Tuesday over the appointment of a Mat-Su Republican to replace Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who resigned in January.

In the first of a pair of letters released Tuesday, Senate leaders asked Gov. Bill Walker to consult with Mat-Su Republicans for new names if he didn’t want to pick one of the three they sent him.

In his reply, Walker said he was sticking with his nominee — Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke. The law was on his side, Walker said.

In the first letter, Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, and the majority leader, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, were careful to not attack Kowalke, a pro-development Republican, retired businessman and a board member of the Resource Development Council.

“Our reluctance is due to our preference for adherence to the traditional process involving local participation,” the Kelly-Micciche letter said. “The good folks from District E assembled a team of 45 Republican Alaskans from all over the vast district to interview 11 individuals. They completed a fair evaluation process, ranked the individuals and forwarded three names to you.”

While Kowalke was one of the 11 applicants, he wasn’t one of the three nominees. Walker, in his letter, said he didn’t have to be.

“Nowhere in statute or the Alaska Constitution does it require the governor to select names from a list provided by a political party,” Walker said. “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.”

Walker, a Republican turned independent, said he wasn’t beholden to a party to pick a replacement for Dunleavy, who quit to focus on his run for governor. Walker said he only had to pick a qualified Republican.

The Senate’s 13 Republicans could have voted on whether to accept Kowalke, but didn’t. If they do and reject him, Walker would have 10 days to pick another Republican.

But Walker described Kowalke as the best candidate for the job, one who had been elected already to public office.

“I am a nonpartisan governor and my decisions are not based on the wishes or demands of any one party,” Walker said. In fact, Walker added, he heard suggestions from the enate majority to pick Kowalke, though he didn’t name them.

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