Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer says he won’t run for reelection

Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer watches members of the Alaska House on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Meyer, as lieutenant governor, is in charge of the Division of Elections. He announced Tuesday he would not seek reelection in 2022. He said he did not want to be a candidate in the election he’ll also be in charge of. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection next year.

“So with that, I’m announcing today. It’s difficult. That I will not be running for reelection to lieutenant governor in 2022. I didn’t think it’d be this tough. It’s a job I really love,” he said.

Meyer’s announcement came at the end of a news conference in which he and Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced they would introduce a catch-all election bill which they say is aimed at improving transparency and confidence in the election process.

Meyer, as lieutenant governor, is in charge of the Division of Elections.

In May, he had signaled that he planned to run for reelection. He filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. But on Tuesday, he said he did not want to be a candidate in the election he’ll also be in charge of.

“I need to be impartial so I can meet these challenges head-on, without any appearance of bias or conflict,” he said. “I think that’s extremely important as far as voter trust and confidence in our election process.”

Before becoming lieutenant governor, Meyer served on the Anchorage Assembly, in the state House and state Senate.

“Frankly after 30 years of elected service — and I just counted up before this press conference — 19 elections that I’ve been in if you count the primary and the general, I’m kind of looking forward to sitting this one out, frankly, and being able to focus 100% of my time on having the best election we can possibly have in 2022,” Meyer said.

The 2022 election will be the inaugural run for the state’s ranked choice voting system, which voters adopted last year in Ballot Measure 2.

Dunleavy did not comment at the news conference on Meyer’s decision to not seek reelection. He has not yet announced a new running mate. Meyer had faced criticism from some conservative voters for his handling of the last election, including from Alaskans in the Mat-Su, a Dunleavy stronghold.

The bill Dunleavy plans to introduce isn’t available yet. One part would make changes to the automatic voter registration of anyone who gets a permanent fund dividend. Meyer says it leaves a lot of people on the rolls who don’t want to vote, or who left the state.

Another aspect would allow voters a chance to correct their ballot if they make a mistake, such as forgetting to sign the envelope on a mail-in ballot.

Scott Kendall, an Anchorage attorney who wrote the ranked choice voting law, said he needs to see the bill before he passes judgment, but he’s concerned about changes to the automatic registration system, which Alaska voters adopted by a ballot measure in 2016.

People need to remember, 65-66% of Alaskans voted in favor of that change,” Kendall said. “So changing it to something else — again, the devil is in the details, but that was concerning to hear.”

Kendall has his differences with the Dunleavy administration. He’s the former chief of staff to Bill Walker, the ex-governor now campaigning against Dunleavy to win his seat back. But Kendall said Meyer is a great public servant and “a class act.”

“He handled last year’s elections well and I think him being in the office, he was a positive influence on the way our elections were run, and probably a positive influence on the administration generally,” Kendall said.

Many of Alaska’s lieutenant governors oversaw the Division of Elections while running for reelection. Grumbling about conflicts of interest stemming from that dual role is common. In most states, though, elections are run by a secretary of state, which is typically an elected position, too.

Alaska Public Media

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