Dunleavy appoints former adviser to University of Alaska regents after Legislature rejects his first pick

After the Legislature narrowly voted to reject Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointee to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, the governor appointed Wednesday former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock to the position.

Babcock served as Dunleavy’s chief of staff at a time when the governor proposed deep cuts to state services, followed by vetoes of hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending, including to the university system. Some of the cuts were eventually restored amid widespread backlash.

Those 2019 proposed cuts were one of the reasons cited by lawmakers when they earlier this month voted to reject Dunleavy’s first pick for the Board of Regents, Bethany Marcum.

Marcum is the director of a conservative advocacy group that had championed the cuts proposed by Dunleavy.

The alignment between Marcum and Babcock in their positions on the cuts to university funding led some to believe that Babcock would be rejected by the Legislature just as Marcum was.

“The time that he was chief of staff was the time where the most significant cuts to the university system occurred. These were the same cuts that were defended by Bethany Marcum. So I’m not quite sure why the governor perceived this as a better choice,” said Tom Begich, a Democratic former state senator and childhood friend of Babcock. “So I would expect that the outcome would probably be similar to what Miss Marcum encountered.”

Babcock resigned from the governor’s office in August 2019, shortly after a recall campaign was launched against Dunleavy. He has also served previously as the head of the Alaska Republican Party, a three-year term as a commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the chair of the redistricting board in 1991, and a decade at the Matanuska Electric Association. In 2022, he lost an election to state Senate to more moderate Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman.


“I don’t think he’s going to be confirmed, so I guess it’s kind of a temporary appointment,” said Rep. Zack Fields, an Anchorage Democrat.

“Fundamentally, he tried to destroy the university, and doesn’t have a record of supporting it,” said Fields, adding that the budget cuts proposed by Dunleavy — with Babcock as his chief adviser — were “unpopular, unwise, and resoundingly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”

Because the Legislature has just adjourned its regular legislative session, it will be nearly a year until lawmakers convene again to approve or reject the governor’s picks for state boards and commissions. Babcock can serve on the Board of Regents — which oversees all facilities and programs of the University of Alaska — until the Legislature votes on his appointment, likely in the spring of next year.

“I am looking forward to reviewing the budget and getting a good grasp of where all the different sources of income are,” said Babcock in a brief phone interview on Wednesday, adding that he’s “not charging in with any particular agenda.”

The state paid a $495,000 settlement on behalf of Babcock and Dunleavy to two state psychiatrists who had been fired at the start of Dunleavy’s time in office for refusing to sign a so-called “loyalty pledge” to the governor.

Asked about that settlement, Babcock said “that’s certainly something that is in the past.”

“I have a 40-year plus reputation of working in all levels of local and state government and private business. I don’t think there’s going to be any real issue there,” Babcock said. “The Board of Trustees has a wide variety of opinions on it, and represents Alaska well. I’ll hopefully be a positive member in that mix.”

In a written statement, Dunleavy said he is “confident that Tuckerman’s expert knowledge of public service and leadership will continue to help Alaska for the better.”

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at smaguire@adn.com.