Just hours after Senate Republicans rebuked Gov. Bill Walker for skipping over the recommendations of Senate District E Republicans, the governor has returned with the on-list appointment of a Sutton man who once wrote that if he had his way abortion providers “would be hunted and executed with scissors cutting their hearts out.”
In a letter to Senate Republicans this evening, Walker said he had picked Tom Braund for the seat. Braund was one of the three candidates, including current Rep. George Rauscher, put forward by local Republicans to replace former Sen. Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy quit the Legislature to seek the Republican nomination for governor.
Walker appointed Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke to the position on Friday, bypassing the local recommendations after the initial vetting process. It doesn’t appear that the Senate Republicans put any serious consideration to the appointment Kowalke before rejecting him earlier today. Asked if the Senate interviewed or spoke with Kowalke, a spokesman said “Today’s decision was about the process, not the individual.”
The appointment of Braund appears to be a case of Walker throwing his hands up in the air.
“Senate Republicans made the unfortunate decision to reject Randall Kowalke. I remain convinced he was the best candidate who stepped forward and expressed interest in the job, but I now believe Senate Republicans will continue to reject anyone I appoint, no matter how qualified, unless that person’s name is on the list provided to me by the Republican Party,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “As such, I have appointed Thomas Braund to fill the vacancy. This ensures the people of Senate District E will have full representation during the legislative session.”
Skipping over a sitting legislator like Rauscher would be considered a snub if he had not recently made light of an alleged assault by a now-former legislator. Walker administration spokesman Austin Baird confirmed the “BDSM FREE ZONE” sticker played a role in the decision.
“Making light of a violent attack on a woman disqualified Rep. Rauscher,” he said on the phone.
Going into the process, Braund was the likely the least likely of the candidates to get the appointment because he didn’t register on anyone’s radar. Mat-Su Frontiersman Publisher Dennis Anderson had this to say about Braund in a recent post:
Tom Braund. ‘Who?’
When I asked around to political insiders about Tom Braund the response was owlishly the same.
But for his lack of name recognition, Braund certainly has an established track record when it comes to abortion.
KTOO reporter Andrew Kitchenman document just some of those posts in a series of tweets.
In a 2017 reply, Braund wrote about abortion: “If I had the reins, this would be murder and the abortionists and all their accessories would be hunted and executed with scissors cutting their hearts out.” #akleg pic.twitter.com/n0FStWZdPL
— Andrew S. Kitchenman (@kitchenman) February 15, 2018
On Jan. 17, Braund posted an image to his Facebook page outlining his position on abortion:
It’s unlikely that much of this is news to Walker’s administration, as the administration took its time before deciding to go off-list with the appointment of Kowalke. Walker’s also staked out an anti-abortion position, though we’ve never heard him opening call for the hunting of abortion providers.
The decision is now back in the hands of the Senate Republicans. If they decide against the will of the local party leaders, Walker will have 10 days to come up with a new name.