One of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointments to the University of Alaska Board of Regents issued an apology on Monday after facing criticism from the Alaska Democratic Party for her social media posts.
Tammy Randolph, 57, owns a State Farm insurance agency in North Pole. She is one of two people Dunleavy, a Republican, named to the UA Board of Regents this month to replace regents whose terms expire in February. The Alaska Legislature still must confirm the appointments.
The Alaska Democratic Party took aim at Randolph on Friday, posting screenshots from her Twitter account and questioning whether she’s fit to serve on the UA board.
Randolph said in an emailed statement Monday that she was amazed, surprised and embarrassed that anyone would be interested in “personal comments I made without thinking” on Twitter.
“I do take full responsibility for them however,” she wrote in the statement. “While the comments were made over a period of time prior to this appointment, I believe that I owe a sincere apology for the tone of my messages and the harsh language that was used. The language expressed was out of boldness and arrogance, as it never occurred to me that they would be seen in the context of a role such as a public figure.”
The 11-member UA Board of Regents is the governing body of Alaska’s public university system. Each regent serves an eight-year term, except for the student regent who’s appointed to the board for two years. The regents aren’t paid, but can get reimbursed for travel expenses. Among their duties, regents appoint the UA president and approve the annual budget.
Among the screenshots the Alaska Democratic Party posted on their social media accounts on Friday: A Sept. 29 Twitter post from Randolph’s account that said, “#MAGA #ConfirmKavanaugh #WalkAway The adults in the room will get this....” Punctuated by three laughing emojis. The writing is above a meme of O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. with the text in all caps, “If there was no sperm you must confirm.”
The Alaska Democrats posted on Twitter: “Really? This person is University of Alaska Board of Regents material? Is this her litmus test for determining sexual assault? Our #UA students deserve much better. This is appalling. Good grief. #akleg #akgov”
Randolph said in a phone interview Friday that she was an adult during the O.J. Simpson trial and had found the Cochran meme amusing. She didn’t make the meme, she said.
She said she finds Twitter entertaining and doesn’t take it seriously.
“It’s just retweeting, but it doesn’t mean that I endorse it,” she said. “I don’t have, you know, friends on Twitter. … It’s not related to anything that I do. It’s just simple entertainment for me. I thought it was kind of off the grid. It’s just, you know, something to do.”
Randolph had changed her Twitter username by Friday and made her account private.
The Alaska Democrats also flagged a post from Dec. 29 that said: “Well she’s a he, so…” above a photo collage of Michelle Obama with the text: “Just a quick reminder of how bad it was!” There were also references to QAnon, which has been described in The New York Times as a “sprawling web of conspiracy theories.”
“Q claims to be a government insider exposing an entrenched, international bureaucracy that is secretly plotting all sorts of nefarious schemes against the Trump administration and its supporters,” the newspaper reported.
Asked if she believed QAnon on Friday, Randolph said, “No. Heavens no. It’s strictly entertainment. That’s all it is.” She later said: “I don’t know whether it exists or not. I don’t believe it or not believe it. I just simply don’t know enough about it. But I find it interesting. I find it’s like a puzzle. So that’s all.”
About the Michelle Obama post, she said: “Total entertainment. I just didn’t like her fashion sense, so I was equating it to the fact, well, most guys don’t have fashion sense. ... That was all it was. It wasn’t meant for anybody. It wasn’t meant to offend. It wasn’t racist. It wasn’t homophobic. I’m not any of those things. It wasn’t anything other than I found it amusing, that’s all.”
The Alaska Democrats’ posting of Randolph’s tweets came a day after Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow said Art Chance would no longer be joining the administration. Screenshots of some of Chance’s social media posts were being circulated online, including on The Alaska Landmine blog. Chance had been slated to join the Department of Administration as a policy adviser. He declined to accept the job offer, Shuckerow said.
Also on Thursday, Jonathan Quick resigned from his job as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration after one of his former employers told state legislators he lied on his resume.
Glenn Clary, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, could not be reached Monday.
Shuckerow, Dunleavy’s press secretary, wrote in an email Friday that the governor was pleased both Randolph and Darroll Hargraves had accepted the appointments to the UA Board of Regents, and he appreciated their enthusiasm to serve Alaska.
“Through their efforts, and those of our educators across the University of Alaska system, future generations of Alaskans will be ready and prepared to contribute to a growing Alaska economy,” Shuckerow wrote.
Shuckerow didn’t respond to questions about whether the governor was aware of Randolph’s Twitter posts and whether he found them appropriate for a regent.
Hargraves, 78, is a former Alaska teacher, superintendent and executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators. He also worked as the director of the division of statewide services on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus in the 1970s and as a lobbyist, he said. Hargraves lives in Wasilla.
In general, University of Alaska faculty are looking for regents who have experience in higher education or governance of public institutions, said Chris Fallen, chair of the UA Faculty Alliance and a research associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.
By Monday, Fallen said, he’d heard from about a dozen faculty members about Randolph’s appointment. Some had concerns about a lack of experience in higher education, he said, and some were “quite alarmed” by some of the Twitter posts.
“I think they’re inferring some things about her character from the tweets and retweets,” he said.
He said he had not received feedback about Hargraves’ appointment.
Randolph wrote in Monday’s statement that she had deactivated her Twitter account.
“My intent moving forward is to direct that same energy and passion into the role of being a Regent. I plan to focus my efforts on what an honor it is to be considered for this appointment,” she wrote. “The University has always been a source of pride for our community and I believe that it has a bright future.”
Randolph described herself as a fiscal conservative. Her father-in-law is Dick Randolph who, in November, was named the Dunleavy transition team’s special adviser on constitutional amendments.
Tammy Randolph has served on the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce board of directors and government relations committee. She has 27 years of experience in the private sector, she wrote, and looks forward to learning more about UA’s budget process and future priorities.
“It’s going to be a large learning curve and an exceptional challenge," she wrote. “While I appear to be off to an inauspicious beginning, if confirmed, I will serve with integrity and honor.”
The two regents whose terms expire in early February are Deena Bishop, Anchorage School District superintendent, and Jo Heckman, a former president and chief executive of Denali State Bank. Heckman was appointed by former Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican. Former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, appointed Bishop to serve the remaining four years of another regent’s term.