Alaska governor picks Nancy Dahlstrom as running mate

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy filed paperwork for office Monday, hoping to become the first sitting Alaska governor in nearly a quarter century to be elected to a second term.

He also introduced his running mate, former state Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom. Her selection continues a trend this election cycle in Alaska in which eight of the nine men who have announced plans to run for governor have selected women as their running mates.

Dunleavy said Dahlstrom’s legislative and executive experience stood out when he was making his decision. He said her experience was important both in the lieutenant governor’s role of overseeing elections in Alaska and in being able to step into the top job if something should happen to the governor.

“You got to ask yourself, does the person have the demeanor, the experience to be able to step in in a role like that, and Nancy does,” he said.

Dahlstrom, a former state legislator who had led the Department of Corrections under Dunleavy, submitted her resignation as Corrections commissioner on Sunday, according to a statement from Dunleavy’s office. The statement was issued minutes before Dunleavy’s campaign announced Dahlstrom as his running mate.

On the issue of elections, Dunleavy said he believes there was “less question” as to how the 2020 election was administered in Alaska but said there are things that could be improved.

He said in one of his final vetting interviews with Dahlstrom, he asked her if there was something she wanted to say about elections. “And she said, ‘Everybody’s vote needs to count, and everybody needs to feel like their vote counts.’ If we can do that and people are satisfied with the elections, then she’s done her job,” he said.

Dahlstrom said it would be premature to talk about any potential changes she might make with elections, saying she would need to analyze operations first. But she said there is great staff in place.

“What’s important is that Alaskans all over the state know that we have safe, secure elections, and that’s going to be my priority,” she said.

The campaign announcement came just over a week before the June 1 filing deadline for the August primary. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as a team under a new elections process approved by voters in 2020. Under that system, the four teams that win the most votes in the primary will advance to the November general election, in which ranked choice voting will be used.

Dunleavy said there has been a lot going on, including with the legislative session that ended last week. He said a choice like this is not made nonchalantly and that he was fine with the timing of the announcement.

Alaska’s current lieutenant governor, Republican Kevin Meyer, previously said he would not seek reelection.

Dahlstrom said she had no hesitation when she was asked to run with Dunleavy. She said she loves Alaska and “being able to serve Alaskans in any capacity is something that I’ve always enjoyed and looked forward to. So this is a great opportunity.”

Dunleavy and Dahlstrom will be the eighth ticket that has filed with the division to run. Each ticket so far features a male gubernatorial candidate and a female candidate for lieutenant governor. State Rep. Christopher Kurka previously announced plans to run for governor with Paul Hueper as his running mate. They have not yet filed with the division.

The last Alaska governor to win reelection was Democrat Tony Knowles in 1998. In 2009, when then-Gov. Sarah Palin resigned, her lieutenant governor, Republican Sean Parnell, became governor. He won election to the office in 2010 but lost his bid for reelection in 2014.