Gov. Mike Dunleavy might be unwilling to reconsider his support of GOP opponent Chair Pierce in light of a new lawsuit accusing the former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor of sexually harassing an executive assistant—the third workplace complaint against Pierce—but for Pierce’s running mate, Edie Grunwald, the decision wasn’t so difficult.
In a statement today, Grunwald announced she would be stepping down from Pierce’s ticket.
“I support and advocate for the respectful treatment of women in politics, the workplace and the world in general. I believe my stepping down at this time is in the best interest of Alaskans and a demonstration of my support for all women, regardless of political affiliation,” she said. “There are recent circumstances surrounding my Gubernatorial running mate, Charlie Pierce, which have led me to make the decision to withdraw from the Pierce-Grunwald for Governor campaign team.”
While her name will stay on the already-printed ballots, Grunwald urges voters to consider voting for the Dunleavy/Dahlstrom ticket. Dunleavy had appointed Grunwald to the chair of the Alaska Parole Board in 2019, which coincided with a steep decline in discretionary parole.
Pierce has been facing calls to withdraw from the race for months as rumors circulated that he had sexually harassed an employee, but it wasn’t until Kenai resident Pamela Wastell—who worked directly for Pierce from 2021 through the first half of 2022—filed her lawsuit on Friday that the details were finally dragged out into the light.
The lawsuit details a series of increasingly hostile interactions with Pierce where he would assail her with “unwelcome and offensive sexual advances” that included unwanted physical contact. The lawsuit also details several instances where Pierce threatened her employment for refusing his advances.
It also alleges that the Kenai Peninsula Borough knew about the harassment and didn’t take meaningful action to correct it despite an independent investigation that found her complaints credible. Already, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has reached settlements worth more than a quarter-million dollars for two former KPB employees—one man and one woman—for workplace harassment and retaliation by Pierce.
Prior accusations of domestic violence also circulated early in the race, prompting Pierce to author an opinion piece attempting to downplay the accusations as “an emotional verbal exchange.”
Both independent candidate Bill Walker and Democratic candidate Les Gara have called on Pierce to suspend his campaign and called on Gov. Dunleavy—who has used recent forum appearances, including one after the lawsuit was filed, to urge voters to rank Pierce second on their ballots.
So far, Dunleavy has refused, claiming in a statement to the Alaska Beacon that there’s no “way to independently verify” the third workplace harassment complaint against Pierce that alleges he sexually harassed a former executive assistant and that it would be “inappropriate and unfair to all parties involved to make any snap judgments or draw any conclusions from a complaint filed just days ago. “
Grunwald’s full statement
From the desk of Edie Grunwald
I am Edie Grunwald, candidate for Lt. Governor.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Alaskans who have supported my campaign to become Alaska’s next Lt. Governor.
I support and advocate for the respectful treatment of women in politics, the workplace and the world in general. I believe my stepping down at this time is in the best interest of Alaskans and a demonstration of my support for all women, regardless of political affiliation.
There are recent circumstances surrounding my Gubernatorial running mate, Charlie Pierce, which have led me to make the decision to withdraw from the Pierce-Grunwald for Governor campaign team.
In closing, I ask that my friends and fellow Alaskans give their support to the Dunleavy/ Dahlstrom team and join me in voting for them on November 8.
With sincere appreciation for your support and understanding,