Dunleavy picks Alaska Corrections commissioner as running mate

a woman and man stand next to each other inside
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom are running as a team for governor and lieutenant governor in the 2022 election. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has announced his running mate: Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom.

Dunleavy said Dahlstrom’s executive and legislative experience makes her well suited to take over the state’s top job at a moment’s notice, if she had to.

“You never know. You could trip down a flight of stairs. You could choke on a piece of steak,” the governor said. “You have to ask yourself: Does the person have the demeanor, the experience, to be able to step in in a role like that? Nancy does.”

Dahlstrom announced her resignation as the head of the Corrections Department Monday afternoon, minutes before the campaign announcement came.

If Alaska voters re-elect Dunleavy in November, Dahlstrom would become lieutenant governor and the head of the Division of Elections.

Dahlstrom, who lives in Eagle River, had an unusual start in state politics. She ran for state House in 2002 as a conservative challenger to the incumbent House member, Lisa Murkowski. Dahlstrom lost in the Republican primary. But that fall, Frank Murkowski was elected governor. He selected his daughter, Lisa, to fill the remainder of his term in the U.S. Senate. That left a vacancy in the state House, and Gov. Murkowski chose Dahlstrom.

She resigned from the Legislature in 2010, saying she would take a new position as military advisor to then-Gov. Sean Parnell, but she soon stepped down after questions arose about whether the appointment was legal. The state Constitution bars legislators from taking state jobs created while they were in office. 

She became head of the state Corrections Department in 2018.

The current lieutenant governor, Kevin Meyer, announced in December that he would not seek another term.

Other teams running for governor and lieutenant governor include:

• Democrat Les Gara and Jessica Cook

• Republican Christopher Kurka and Paul Hueper

• Republican Charlie Pierce and Edie Grunwald

• Nonpartisan Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas

The contest, like all state elections now, will be an open primary followed by ranked choice voting in the general. The candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as a team in the August primary, and the top four teams advance to the November ballot. June 1 is the filing deadline for the primary.

Dunleavy’s office announced Monday that Jen Winkelman, a longtime Corrections employee, will serve as acting commissioner.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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