Republican lawmaker resigns to focus on gubernatorial campaign

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, on the floor of the Senate during debate about the state operating budget, March 14, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, on the floor of the Senate during debate about the state operating budget, March 14, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Republican gubernatorial hopeful and Wasilla resident Mike Dunleavy is resigning from the state Senate to focus on campaigning.

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For the past five years, Dunleavy has represented Senate District E, which includes northern parts of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and a section stretching from Delta Junction to Valdez. But Dunleavy submitted his letter of resignation on Monday.

“I’ve always been one to put 100 percent into whatever I’m doing, and so the choice was either run for governor and give 100 percent or stay with the senate and give 100 percent, and we felt we couldn’t do both,” he said.

Dunleavy recently restarted his campaign for governor after suspending it to get treatment for an issue with his heart. Dunleavy said that took time away from planning the campaign, but with his health concerns resolved, he said he needs to put all his energy into running for governor.

Dunleavy’s resignation from the state Senate is set for Jan. 15. That’s the day before the Legislature starts its next session. State law restricts fundraising by sitting lawmakers while the Legislature is in session.

Dunleavy admitted the resignation will make it easier for him to fundraise. But he said he owes it to his constituents, and Alaskan voters in general, to focus on the campaign.

“The last three years have demonstrated that we have an absence of leadership,” Dunleavy said. “People need to ask themselves, ‘Is Alaska better off the last three years than previous to this?’ And wherever I go, the answer is no.”

It’s now up to the state Republican party to suggest possible replacements for Dunleavy’s Senate seat. Those names go to the governor, who will appoint the next state senator for District E, pending approval by Senate Republicans.

Dunleavy says he does not want to be involved in the process of picking his successor and declined to name anyone he’d like to see take his spot in the Senate.

Meantime, Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke is the only candidate to formally announce he is running for Dunleavy’s seat.