Republicans name three candidates, including Rep. Rauscher, to replace Dunleavy

Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s resignation from the Alaska Legislature became official on Monday, just as party officials in Wasilla were mulling over the candidates they’d put forward to replace the gubernatorial candidate.

The three nominations, which became official after a few rounds of voting, are sitting Rep. George Rauscher, Tom Braund and Todd Smolden. Braund and Smolden are actively involved in the party. Gov. Bill Walker will get to select the appointment, but Republican Senators will have the final say through a confirmation vote.

The safe bet

Tradition would suggest that a sitting legislator like Rauscher will be a favorite to fill the seat. The last senate vacancy was filled by then-Rep. John Coghill, whose North Pole seat was then replaced by Rep. Tammie Wilson. Experienced folks in the Legislature say anything other than the appointment of Rauscher would be seen as a snub to him and the party.

The move would also give the district officials, the governor and the party another appointment, which would give Braund and Smolden another chance to join the Legislature.

Why it matters

State law requires a legislative vacancy be filled within 30 days, meaning the Senate could be short a vote for a third of the regular 90-day session.

It’s also likely that the Senate Republicans will push for a legislator who will caucus with the Republican-led majority. Dunleavy left the majority after refusing to back the majority’s budget, a move that fellow Mat-Su Sen. Shelley Hughes would later follow. Currently, the only Mat-Su senator to remain in the majority caucus is Sen. David Wilson.

Democrats announced last week the finalists to fill the House District 40 seat that was vacated by Rep. Dean Westlake. The nominees reportedly met with Walker on Monday, and the governor is expected to make a decision soon. The seat must be filled by mid next week.

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