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Alaska Legislature

Walker picks Mat-Su Republican in 2nd attempt to fill vacant Senate seat

After Senate Republicans rejected his first choice, Gov. Bill Walker appointed a Sutton man late Wednesday to fill the state Senate seat formerly held by Wasilla Republican Mike Dunleavy, who resigned last month to run for governor.

Walker said he'd appointed Tom Braund, a Mat-Su Republican Party official. That was after Senate Republicans voted to reject Walker's first appointee, Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, earlier on Wednesday.

The senators said they were unwilling to accept Kowalke because he wasn't on a list of three candidates given to Walker by Mat-Su Republicans. Braund was one of the three original candidates on that list.

"I now believe Senate Republicans will continue to reject anyone I appoint, no matter how qualified, unless that person's name is on the list provided to me by the Republican Party," Walker said in a prepared statement. "As such, I have appointed Thomas Braund to fill the vacancy."

Longstanding Alaska political tradition calls for the governor to fill a legislative vacancy from a list provided by the political party whose member previously held the seat.

But state law allows Walker to select any registered Republican from Dunleavy's Mat-Su district for the seat, and other governors have strayed from political parties' lists before.

Senate Republicans, who must confirm Dunleavy's replacement before he or she can be seated, said they wanted Walker to follow political tradition in making his appointment.

In a statement Wednesday morning, they said they'd rejected Kowalke. They did not provide a tally of votes.

"We believe the people of District E should be given an opportunity to fill the seat with a candidate they support through the traditional process, which is designed to respect the will of the voters," the statement quoted Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, as saying.

Braund's Facebook profile says he's worked at the San Diego Police Department and for a fire department in New Jersey. He said at a 2010 candidate forum that he served nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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