Walker chooses Sutton resident for Senate after Republicans reject top pick

In this screen capture from Facebook, Tom Braund uses graphic language. describing his views on abortion. Gov. Walker announced Wednesday night that the Sutton resident is his second pick to fill a vacant state Senate seat.
In this screen capture from Facebook taken Feb. 14, 2018, Tom Braund used graphic language describing his views on abortion in a comment made last year. Gov. Bill Walker announced Wednesday night that the Sutton resident is his second pick to fill a vacant state Senate seat.

Gov. Bill Walker appointed Sutton resident Tom Braund on Wednesday night as his second choice to fill the vacant Senate District E seat.

Braund is a retiree who has said he worked in public safety for more than 30 years. He declined to give an interview to Alaska Public Media last month, saying that he distrusts the media. His Facebook page said he works at Ripe Harvest, a Christian-based organic food business.

The appointment follows the Republican members of the state Senate voting Wednesday to reject Matanuska-Sustina Borough Assembly Member Randall Kowalke.

Kowalke was Walker’s first choice to replace Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy resigned from the seat in January to focus on his run for governor.

In a letter to Senate Republicans, Walker said members of the Republican-led Senate majority actually encouraged Kowalke’s appointment.

Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche said the rejection was based on Walker not following the traditional process. That process involves appointing someone who has support from district parties.

The district party nominated three people: Rep. George Rauscher, teacher Todd Smoldon and Braund.

Walker said in the statement announcing Braund’s appointment that he believes 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.”

Braund’s posts on Facebook contain potentially controversial material. They include a response to a post in 2017 saying if Braund “had the reins …  abortionists and all their accessories would be hunted and executed with scissors cutting their hearts out.”

Braund wrote in another post that unauthorized immigrants who bring children to the country are trying to bring the United States “back under Mexican authority by continuing the Mexican-American War.”

Rauscher’s Senate chances may have been set back by a recent incident.

After a woman alleged former Rep. Zach Fansler repeatedly slapped her, a sign appeared on Rauscher’s office door saying the office was a “BDSM-free zone.” The phrase refers to various sexual practices. The sign referred to a Juneau Empire newspaper report that Fansler used the initials in a text message he sent to the woman after the alleged assault.

Smoldon has said that not enough has been trimmed from the state budget. Two other Mat-Su senators – Dunleavy and Shelley Hughes – left the majority caucus over differences over the budget and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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