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Pierce picks Grunwald to be running mate

Pierce announced his pick for lieutenant governor in Kenai Saturday and in a video online.
Charlie Pierce
Pierce announced his pick for lieutenant governor in Kenai Saturday and in a video online.

Charlie Pierce has named his running mate in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor tapped Edie Grunwald to share his ticket and run as lieutenant governor. Pierce, who's running as a Republican, made the announcement in Kenai and via Facebookon Saturday in a prerecorded video.

Grunwald is a retired Air Force colonel who lives in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. This will be her second gubernatorial race, having run as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Her most recent public service has been to chair the Alaska Parole Board after being tapped by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2019. She’s been a victims’ rights advocate since her 16-year-old son was kidnapped and killed in Palmer three years earlier.

In her appearance alongside Pierce, Grunwald said she wanted to purge ineligible voters from participating in elections.

“Alaskans deserve an accurate voter roll," Grunwald said. "The Pierce administration will immediately begin to complete the updating of the voter rolls."

The Division of Elections is headed by the lieutenant governor. It annually updates its voter rolls, a process called “list maintenance.” The division sends letters to registered voters who have not voted or contacted the division in four years, and if after repeated notifications they still haven’t heard back, that voter becomes inactive in the state’s roll.

Grunwald also said in the video she would have more responsibility under Pierce than former lieutenant governors, although she didn’t elaborate.

“The lieutenant governor position will no longer be a hidden and silent office, but with the direction of Gov. Pierce, will take a robust and active role in the administration and direction of our state government," she said.

Pierce said in the announcement he plans on putting together an administration that will be responsive to the needs of Alaskans.

“To quote John Donne who wrote in 1642 ‘No man is an island,'" he said. "I will bring together a team of professionals in my administration that will foster and adhere to our promise of Alaskans first.”

In 2014, Grunwald was one of three Alaska National Guard leaders fired in during a National Guard scandal by former Gov. Sean Parnell.

Parnell didn’t say outright at the time why he fired Grunwald and two others, according to contemporary reports by the Alaska Public Radio Network. But the firing came after a report from the National Guard that alleged leaders had failed to properly investigate allegations of sexual assault in the ranks.

Grunwald, for her part, said at the time it was a mistake and that she did thoroughly investigate complaints when they came up.

Pierce will be one of two Republican challengers to Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The other is Rep. Christopher Kurka of Wasilla, who picked Homer’s Paul Hueper as his running mate. Democratic challenger Les Gara is also running. As is former Gov. Bill Walker, who was elected in 2014 as an independent.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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