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Politics

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy names new attorney general, but Democrats predict tough confirmation hearings

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: January 18
  • Published January 18

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named Alaska Department of Law attorney Clyde “Ed” Sniffen as his choice to replace Kevin Clarkson as Alaska’s attorney general.

“Ed Sniffen has a long and proven record of leadership within the Department of Law and I am proud to appoint him to serve as our state’s next Attorney General,” the governor said in a written statement announcing his decision. “In the past two years I have worked alongside Ed and know he will serve my administration and the people of Alaska with distinction.”

Sniffen has been working as the state’s interim attorney general since the August resignation of Clarkson amid a sexual harassment scandal. The governor’s selection is subject to confirmation by the Alaska Legislature, and lawmakers have rejected a governor’s pick for attorney general only once, in 2009.

Despite that history, some Democrats are predicting Sniffen will face tough questions before his confirmation vote, and if the House and Senate are led by bipartisan coalitions, the vote could be closer than normal.

“He’s not going to get 50 votes,” said Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage and one of three lawyers serving in the Legislature.

Last year, Josephson led an effort to rewrite the state budget in an attempt to block the Department of Law from hiring Outside lawyers for several lawsuits. The budget was rewritten, but the state has kept the contracts anyway.

“He’s not supposed to be spending money on these expensive attorneys in Washington, D.C., but he’s doing it,” Josephson said.

Josephson predicted Sniffen will face questions on that issue and on the state’s attempt to join a lawsuit by Texas that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Though Dunleavy and the Department of Law said they had joined the lawsuit, the appropriate documents were never filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, said he believes Sniffen will face tougher questions than Clarkson did because Sniffen has been leading the Department of Law for months now and so has a track record to examine.

Claman said he personally has a positive impression of Sniffen, who has worked at the Department of Law since 2000. Sniffen has worked in the state’s consumer protection unit, as a chief assistant attorney general, deputy attorney general, chief of staff and then as acting attorney general.

“He’s been a longtime attorney with the attorney general’s office in leadership positions. And I certainly think he understands the importance of having a well functioning and well organized department of law. And he brings that, that background and experience, and I’ve always found him to be very accessible and easy to get in touch with, communicate with, so I view it as a very positive step,” Claman said.

If confirmed, Sniffen would be the first state attorney general since Bruce Botelho to come from within the Department of Law. Botelho, named the state’s top attorney by Gov. Wally Hickel, also served under Gov. Tony Knowles.

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