Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor and Alaska gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Pierce and running mate Edie Grunwald on Thursday clinched an endorsement from the Alaska Republican Party at the group’s state convention in Fairbanks. This year’s sold-out convention brings together Republican leaders from around the state ahead of a busy election season.
Pierce, who launched his bid for governor in January, has touted a “Results Not Rhetoric” slogan and expressed his desire to reduce state spending and boost educational outcomes if elected. He’s a former manager at ENSTAR natural gas and has been mayor of the Kenai Peninsula borough since 2017.
Pierce said in a Friday statement to the Clarion that he is “extremely pleased” that the party voted to endorse him and Grunwald.
“The acknowledgement that we are prepared and recognized as the Team to lead the State of Alaska into the future is an honor,” Pierce said. “Edie and I appreciate the convention delegates joining with so many Alaskans in supporting our vision of putting ‘Alaskans First.’”
The party has already endorsed incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who is running for reelection. Other candidates vying to be Alaska’s next governor include registered Democrat Les Gara, nonpartisan candidate Bill Walker and Republican Christopher Kurka, who currently serves in the Alaska State House of Representatives.
The Alaska Republican Party’s endorsement of Pierce and Grunwald comes ahead of a hectic election season — Alaskans will vote for a governor and lieutenant governor ticket as well as for state legislators, a U.S. senator and a U.S. representative.
The elections will also operate under new voting systems approved by voters as Ballot Measure No. 2. The measure passed narrowly in 2020 with 50.55% of votes cast.
Under the open primary structure, all voters will vote the same primary ballot regardless of political party. The top four vote-getters from the primary will then move on to a ranked choice general election, regardless of party affiliation. Ranked choice voting allows voters to choose more than one candidate in ranked order. Voters can rank up to four candidates, or just rank one, two or three candidates.
Alaska Republican Party Vice President Craig Campbell said Friday that Alaska’s new election system has changed the way the party thinks about endorsements. He said Thursday’s endorsement was made by the State Central Committee, which is composed of about 80 members including the party’s executive team, district chairs and regional chairs from about the state.
The committee conducted a standing vote, Campbell said, and was divided on giving a second endorsement to the Pierce and Grunwald team. Those who were not in favor of the endorsement did not necessarily oppose Pierce as a gubernatorial candidate, but did not get on board with the endorsement of more than one candidate for the race.
“There are many who felt there should be only one candidate (endorsed),” Campbell said.
Under Alaska’s new voting system, Campbell said that, from the party’s perspective, a best-case scenario would be to have four Republican candidates advance from the open primary to the ranked choice general election. The party’s endorsement of more than one candidate, he said, is meant to make that candidate more attractive to voters.
“We want good candidates (and) Charlie Pierce is a good candidate,” Campbell said.
This year’s state primary election will be held on Aug. 16. The state general election will be held on Nov. 8. More information about both elections can be found on the Alaska Division of Elections website at elections.alaska.gov.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.