Mother of teen killed in high-profile murder enters race for lieutenant governor

(Photo by mitchell haindfield/Flickr Creative Commons)

Edie Grunwald has filed to run for lieutenant governor as a Republican, joining a field of Republican legislators who supported a bill that she says made the state far too soft on crime.

Grunwald is the mother of 16-year-old David Grunwald who was brutally murdered in 2016 in a barbaric case that shocked the state. Grunwald spoke to KTVA about the filing, saying she decided to run because the other candidates for lieutenant governor voted in favor of the 2016 Senate Bill 91 that eased penalties on some low-level crimes.

“If a couple of these guys would have been held accountable for their actions in a couple of those previous cases, my son would still be alive today,” Grunwald said told the station, adding that the death penalty should be an option in cases like her son’s.

The three current or former legislators in the race all voted in favor of Senate Bill 91 in 2016. They include former Senate Presidents Kevin Meyer and Gary Stevens, and former Rep. Lynn Gattis.

Grunwald told KTVA that she planned on partnering with Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who initially voted in favor of Senate Bill 91 before opposing the final version produced by the House. Dunleavy has since suspended his race due to health concerns.

Former Senate President Charlie Huggins, who filed to run for governor last week, voted against Senate Bill 91 at every step.

Rep. Mike Chenault, who announced he was exploring entering the race for governor, voted in favor of Senate Bill 91.

Impact on the race

Grunwald’s entry into the race could make for a significant shakeup. While most gubernatorial candidates have been focused on issues like the permanent fund dividend, crime has been a simmering issue that’s beginning to boil over into the forefront of the political discussion.

Gov. Bill Walker’s October special session on revenue has since transformed into the crime special session. Last week, Walker added Senate Bill 54 to the special session agenda. The bill rolls back parts of Senate Bill 91 and reinstates potential jail time for first-time felons convicted of low-level Class C felonies. No announcement has been yet made on revenue measures for the session.

With a wave of high-profile crimes in the headlines and an undercurrent of small-time thefts and robberies stand to be a political motivator next year. Whether the blame can be fairly lumped onto Senate Bill 91—when there’s also been deep cuts to prosecutors (the state has prosecuted about a third fewer misdemeanors since 2013) and a rise in opioid abuse—is largely immaterial if voters don’t feel safe.

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