Senate Republicans have voted down the appointment of Randall Kowalke to the vacancy left behind by former Sen. Mike Dunleavy, sending Walker back to local Republicans.
Gov. Bill Walker ignored a list of three candidates put forward by District E Republicans, which included sitting Rep. George Rauscher, to appoint Kowalke. Kowalke applied to the position, but was not picked by the district party members (one of those members had “bad blood” with Kowalke in both a contested election and a private lawsuit).
Senate Republicans, Dunleavy and the Alaska Republican Party were universally critical of Walker’s decision to go off-list with his appointment, but the Senate said it would give the appointment consideration. A prepared statement about the rejection doesn’t say whether senators interviewed Kowalke.
“We believe the people of District E should be given an opportunity to fill the seat with a candidate they support through the traditional process, which is designed to respect the will of the voters,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche. “The seat does not belong to us in the Senate, or the governor. The seat belongs to the people of District E.”
The rejection gives Walker an additional 10 days to return with a new appointment.
After an initial vacancy, the governor has 30 days to appoint a new member, and the appointment then has to be confirmed by members of the same political party. The process traditionally relies on local party members to put forward a slate of candidates for the governor to consider, but the process is not written into law.
Senate District E has been vacant for the entire session. Dunleavy’s resignation didn’t become official until the day before the start of the legislative session. He is currently seeking the Republican nomination for governor.