It’s been so long since Gov. Mike Dunleavy called it quits with Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, leaving a blank space on his 2022 reelection campaign, that it started to become a running joke whether the governor would find anyone willing to run with him by the June 1 filing deadline.
Today, precisely a month after he said he’d have a running mate announced in roughly a week, the governor announced that now-former Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom had joined his ticket.
The two made the announcement by filing to run as a combined ticket at the Division of Elections office in Anchorage followed by a brief question-and-answer session with reporters. Dunleavy said the search for a running mate was wide and he felt Dahlstrom had the right combination of experience for the job.
The governor said her experience in Corrections, a position she took after resigning the House seat she won in 2018 and resigned from shortly before today’s announcement, as well as her prior experience in the Legislature would translate well to the lieutenant governor’s job of overseeing elections.
“Although she hasn’t dealt with elections specifically, the concept of security is important to myself and Nancy,” he said, noting he felt comfortable with her stepping in in the case he falls down a flight of stairs or chokes on a piece of steak. “We talked to a number of folks, a lot of good folks—we’re not going to get into who they were—and a number of those folks could be standing here next to us, but in the end the executive experience, the legislative experience is very important.”
When asked about her goals, she said it was premature to talk about any specific plans she had in mind for the Division of Elections.
“What’s important is that Alaskans all over the state know that we have safe and secure elections,” she said. “That’s going to be my priority.”
Dunleavy said he believes the 2020 election was “less questioned as to how the election was administered.”
The 2020 elections in Alaska faced no well-founded accusations of malfeasance but, like with elections everywhere, it’s still been a favorite talking point of the far-right that was largely focused in on Lt. Gov. Meyer. Meyer tried to appease naysayers with an audit that found the results of the initiative matched the machine-tabulated result by more than 99%, but the accusations of some kind of wrongdoing continued to dog the administration with elevating calls for a Arizona-style “forensic audit” and heavy-handed election reforms that critics say would make it much more difficult to vote.
Dahlstrom served in the Legislature from 2003 to 2010, when she took a job as a military adviser in former Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration. It ended up being a short stint when she resigned amid criticism that the hiring violated the Alaska Constitution’s rules for legislators taking state jobs.
Why it matters
The nearly five months that it has taken Dunleavy to announce a candidate has become a running joke in Alaska politics. Several other potential names had been floated during that time, including Anchorage Republican legislators Mia Costello and Sara Rasmussen. Dahlstrom is generally viewed as one of the more competent Republican officials in Dunleavy’s orbit and should have some centrist appeal.
With the establishment of ranked voting in Alaska, Dunleavy is feeling pressure on both flanks as former independent Gov. Bill Walker is running with an appeal to centrists while Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and Wasilla Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka have both positioned themselves far to the right with campaigns deeply critical of Dunleavy’s time in office.
Former Democratic Anchorage Rep. Les Gara is currently the only Democrat in the race.