Alaska GOP senator resigning to focus on governor's race
Updated 3:18 pm, Monday, January 8, 2018
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state Sen. Mike Dunleavy plans to resign his seat to focus on running for governor.
In a statement released Monday, the Wasilla Republican said the best way for him to advocate for his constituents' values is to devote his full time and attention to ensuring that a new governor is elected this year.
A Dunleavy campaign spokeswoman, Amanda Price, said the resignation will be effective Jan. 15 — the day before the new legislative session begins.
State Republican party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock said he expects local party officials to act quickly in vetting applicants and forwarding the names of finalists to Gov. Bill Walker for appointment.
Any such appointment would be subject to confirmation by Senate Republicans.
Babcock said while he has political disagreements with Walker, a former Republican no longer registered with a party, he thinks Walker will make a responsible decision in appointment Dunleavy's successor.
Dunleavy last month jumped back into the race after putting his campaign on hold last year to deal with health issues. He said those issues have been addressed.
Dunleavy, who was first elected to the Senate in 2012, left the Republican-led Senate majority last year over concerns that more had not been cut from the budget. He also didn't support a proposed change to distribution of Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
He called the decision a matter of conscience though some saw the move, at that time, as the conservative positioning himself for a gubernatorial run.
The decision to leave the caucus in some ways limited Dunleavy's effectiveness to push his agenda in the Legislature.
By resigning, he can work toward gaining traction for his campaign in a way he might not have been able to as a legislator. State law places restrictions on fundraising by lawmakers while the Legislature is in session.
Dunleavy is among a number of Republicans who so far have expressed interest in running for governor, including Rep. Mike Chenault, former state lawmaker Charlie Huggins and businessman Scott Hawkins.
Walker is seeking re-election. He won with support of Alaska Democrats in 2014 but that isn't assured this time.
Dunleavy's departure means the House and Senate both will have to fill vacancies.
Democratic state Rep. Dean Westlake resigned last month amid accusations of inappropriate behavior.