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Alaska Legislature

List of applicants for vacant Alaska Senate seat grows to 8

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: August 20
  • Published August 20

At least eight Anchorage residents have applied to fill the state Senate seat vacated by the death this month of Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage.

The total number of applicants for Birch’s seat remains unclear. The Alaska Republican Party has declined to release a final list of applicant names.

Interviews are scheduled Wednesday night at the state Republican Party headquarters, where local officials are slated to talk to each applicant in person before voting upon a list of finalists to forward to the governor.

Five of the eight applicants were previously identified; the remaining three became known Monday. Under the procedures adopted earlier this year by the state party, applications for the vacancy were due Sunday evening.

The newly identified applicants include:

• Lisa Sauder, executive director of Bean’s Cafe.

• Mike Robbins, Republican district chair for House District 26.

• Anne Helzer, chairwoman of the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

• Tali Birch Kindred, daughter of Chris Birch and an attorney for the firm Oil Search.

• Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-District 26.

• Rep. Josh Revak, R-District 25.

• Dave Donley, Anchorage School Board member and former state legislator.

• Albert Fogle, who ran in 2018 for the House and in 2017 for the Anchorage Assembly.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy must select a replacement for Birch within 30 days of his death, according to state law, and that pick is subject to confirmation by the Senate’s remaining Republicans. According to custom, local party officials pick finalists to help the governor in the selection process and avoid a situation where the governor’s choice is rejected by the Senate. That happened under former Govs. Bill Walker and Sarah Palin.

The Republican Party chairs for House Districts 25 and 26 said they were not allowed to release the names of the applicants and referred questions to the state party. State chairman Glenn Clary has not returned multiple calls seeking comment, and messages left at the party’s Anchorage office phone number were not returned.

On Tuesday morning, the state party’s legal counsel, Stacey Stone, said the Republican Party will not reveal who has applied for consideration.

“If the applicants wish to disclose their names, they can, but the party’s not going to disclose their names,” she said.

Seven of the applicants confirmed their interest directly. Multiple calls to Helzer’s law office were met with the response that she was in a meeting. Her application was confirmed independently by one person familiar with the selection process and another person with knowledge of her application.

Robbins, a West Anchorage High School graduate, owns several businesses, including a logistics firm, radio stations and a marketing firm in Anchorage. He served as the campaign manager for Mead Treadwell’s unsuccessful campaign for governor last year and was the Alaska field director for the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.

“No one can tell you that I’ve applied except for me,” Robbins said.

Sauder has what she describes as a “pretty extensive background” in tourism and banking. She also ran her own business before taking on the role of feeding Anchorage’s needy population at Bean’s Cafe.

“It’s an opportunity to serve Alaskans in a different capacity,” she said of her application.

Helzer is an attorney in private practice in Anchorage and president of the Anchorage Bar Association. According to the biography she submitted before joining the Public Offices Commission, she has a bachelor’s degree from Thomas More College, a Master of Science from the University of Bridgeport and a law degree from the Regent University School of Law. She sings with the Anchorage Concert Chorus and graduated from the Anchorage Police Citizens Academy.

Heather Hebdon — the executive director of the Public Offices Commission, which is the state’s campaign finance regulator — said nothing prevents a sitting member of the commission from applying for a vacancy. If selected, however, Helzer would have to resign from the commission: Sitting members are not allowed to hold public office or campaign for office.

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