Republican senators request local party suggestion to fill vacancy

Mat-Su Borough Assembly member Randall Kowalke is pictured in the assembly portrait. Gov. Bill Walker named him to the vacant state Senate seat vacated by Mike Dunleavy, but Senate Republicans want someone suggested by local Republicans. (Photo courtesy of Matanuska-Susitna Borough)

The Republican members of the state Senate said Tuesday they want Gov. Bill Walker to ask Senate District E Republicans for more suggestions on who should replace Mike Dunleavy if he won’t pick one of the existing three nominees.

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Senate President Pete Kelly and Majority Leader Peter Micciche said in a letter to Walker that it would unfair to either confirm or reject Walker’s appointment of Randall Kowalke to replace Dunleavy.

Walker responded in a letter by saying he has no intention of delaying the process by requesting more names while Kowalke’s appointment is still pending. Walker, a former Republican turned independent, said members of the Republican-led Senate majority urged Kowalke’s appointment. The governor also said that if the Senate Republicans reject Kowalke, he would forward another name.

Walker appointed Kowalke on Friday, instead of one of the district party nominees. They are Rep. George Rauscher, teacher Todd Smoldon and organic food worker Tom Braund.

Traditionally, governors have filled vacancies with one of three nominees nominated by district parties. But Walker also didn’t pick one of House District 40 Democrats’ original nominees after Dean Westlake resigned.

If the Senate Republicans don’t act on Kowalke, the position will remain vacant.

State law gives the governor 30 days to appoint someone to fill a vacancy. The person must be from the same political party as the previous office holder, and the sitting members of the chamber from the same party must approve them.

State law doesn’t limit the amount of time Senate Republicans have to confirm Walker’s appointee.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at

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