GOP chair compares Walker to North Korean dictator
Senate Republicans on Wednesday will vote on Gov. Bill Walker’s choice to have Randall Kowalke fill the Senate vacancy created by Mike Dunleavy’s resignation last month.
On Tuesday, they held off their vote, instead asking Walker to go back to the three names originally provided by the Republican Party on behalf of the Mat-Su district. Alternately, they want Walker to seek another set of names from the party.
Last week, Walker appointed Kowalke, who had already filed to run for Dunleavy’s seat in November anyway. But, Kowalke was not among the three people the Republican Party sent to Walker for consideration. Names sent were Rep. George Rauscher, Anchorage teacher Todd Smoldon and organic food grower Tom Braund.
As a result, Walker faced swift pushback from some Senate Republicans, as well as Republicans from Dunleavy’s district.
In a letter to Walker, Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) and Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) asked Walker to further consider previous choices.
“Senate Republicans feel that the appointment varies from the traditional procedure employed to fill such vacancies. In this case, we request that you consider returning to the impacted district for other suggestions if you feel you cannot appoint one of the three forwarded to your office.”
Late-Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Walker released a response to Sens. Kelly and Micciche. He said, in part, "While I appreciate your concern for the Republican party's selection process, I am a non-partisan Governor and my decisions are not based on the wishes or demands of any one party. Rather, my appointment of Mr. Kowalke was based solely on my desire to make the best decisions for all Alaskans, including the residents of Senate District E."
"In closing," Gov. Walker wrote, "I have no intention of delaying the selection process by requesting additional names from the Republican party while my current appointment is still pending."
Republicans say they will vote Wednesday after Gov. Walker didn't honor their request to reconsider his selection of Kowalke.
After the letter exchange, Micciche said late Tuesday that a vote will take place early-Wednesday morning.
“We’ll see what the vote is in the morning,” he said. “As you can imagine, we had support of the Senate Majority, Senate Republicans, on sending the letter. Senator Kelly and I certainly didn’t send it in a vacuum.
“Most importantly, this is no reflection on Mr. Randall Kowalke. He seems like a fine man. I don’t know him personally. I understand he has served honorably in his community for a very long time-- this is about the process.”
"The governor apparently thinks that involving local people is a waste of time," said Tuckerman Babcock, chair of the Alaska Republican Party. "If he can weasel his way out by saying, ‘Well the statute gives me this authority so I don’t care how it’s been done for fifty years. I’m just going to use my own personal judgment and pick someone I want.’ I wouldn't be surprised if the legislature introduced a bill saying, 'Ok governor, we’re introducing a bill to take you out of the picture. You have nothing at stake in who the Republican senator is from district E.’ That is something that the local people decide. It is not like appointing a commissioner. I really have no idea where the governor gets his approach to politics where he thinks it's all him and his decision.”
"I’m sure Kim Il Jong (sic), the North Korean dictator, thinks what he’s doing is best for the state, too. I mean that’s exactly what kings and dictators everywhere say. 'I alone know what’s best for the state,'" Babcock continued.
Should the Senate Republicans reject Kowalke, Walker has 10 days to submit another name.
Kowalke said he is “seriously concerned” about the district not getting timely representation.
Liz Thomas contributed to this report.
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