State senator Mike Dunleavy resigns from Legislature to boost gubernatorial run

Dunleavy done left.

In a surprise announcement, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, has announced he will resign his seat in the Alaska Legislature to focus on a campaign for governor. His resignation is effective Jan. 15, he told the Empire.

By phone, he said the decision was the answer to a simple question: Could he simultaneously do a good job as a legislator and a good job as a candidate for governor?

“For me, it was can you do both, can you do both well? The answer was no,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy, who announced his campaign in 2016, suspended his effort for several months while he was treated for a cardiac condition. He resumed his campaign on Dec. 21, then announced his latest move in a speech at the Alaska Republican Party’s Trump Gala on Saturday night in Anchorage. Blogger Jeff Landfield first reported the speech.

Doyle Holmes is the Republican Party’s District 10 chairman and will be a member of the committee picking Dunleavy’s replacement. He said Dunleavy’s remarks were “well-received” by the crowd at the gala, which was intended to celebrate President Donald Trump’s first anniversary in office.

“That was quite a show,” he said of the event and Dunleavy’s speech.

Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, explained the procedures for picking Dunleavy’s replacement. Dunleavy represents Senate Seat E, which includes House districts 9 and 10. Applications for Dunleavy’s seat will be taken by Republican district leaders until 5 p.m. Sunday.

At 6 p.m. Jan. 16, the Republican leaders from the two house districts will hold a joint meeting in Wasilla. They will interview the candidates and pick the names of three or four finalists to forward to Gov. Bill Walker. Walker will have 30 days from Jan. 15 to select one of those names, and that person must then be confirmed by a majority of Republicans in the Alaska Senate.

Applicants for the seat must be residents of the Senate District, must be Republican, and must meet the other constitutional requirements for the seat.

“It’ll be up to the district committees themselves” to pick the finalists, Babcock said.

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, did not return a phone call from the Empire by press time but told KTVA-TV that he intends to apply for the vacancy. Rauscher represents House District 9. House District 10 is represented by Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, who did not return a phone call from the Empire by press time about his intentions.

For his part, Dunleavy said he doesn’t have a preference.

“This seat belongs to the people,” he said. “I have not attempted to be part of (the selection process) or game that.”

Dunleavy isn’t the only sitting legislator who is running for governor. Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, has announced a campaign but did not return a call Monday seeking comment on Dunleavy’s action. Several other Republicans not in the Legislature have also filed letters of intent or otherwise have expressed interest in running for governor. Gov. Bill Walker, the independent incumbent, announced a re-election bid in August.

Under state law, had Dunleavy remained in office, he would have been prohibited from campaigning or raising money during the session. He acknowledged that his resignation will give him an advantage on that front.

The Alaska Legislature is also expected to make difficult choices on the state budget this year. The Empire asked if Dunleavy was attempting to dodge a bullet by leaving before critical votes on the future of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the budget.

“No. Some would say I jump in front of bullets, if you look at my voting record,” Dunleavy said.

He closed the interview by adding that he wants Alaskans to know he’s committed to the gubernatorial race.

“I’m running for governor. I’m 100 percent in,” he said.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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