GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce picks parole board chairman Edie Grunwald as running mate

Republican candidate for governor and Kenai Peninsula borough mayor Charlie Pierce has chosen Alaska parole board chairman Edie Grunwald as his running mate.

Grunwald was appointed to the parole board by incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2019 and had donated to his re-election campaign before Pierce entered the race. Pierce announced his selection of Grunwald as his candidate for lieutenant governor on Saturday at a restaurant in Kenai.

Grunwald said his decision to resign from the parole board and campaign against Dunleavy was “extremely embarrassing at first, but then, you know, we’re all here to make Alaska better.”

“I just think I’m doing this duty for Alaska, so hopefully (Dunleavy) respects that,” she said. “I’m pretty sure he would, because he’s a great guy, you know?”

Dunleavy’s campaign offered no comment on Grunwald’s entry into the race.

With three months to go until the deadline to enter Alaska’s 2022 gubernatorial race, the field is getting crowded. Palmer’s Jimmy Cottrell last week became the eighth person and the fifth Republican to step into the campaign. His running mate lieutenant governor is Brittany Cottrell, his younger, nonpartisan sister.

The deadline to register for the elections is June 1, but the number of candidates seeking to run in Alaska’s new electoral system is already on par with previous elections. In the 2018 primary election, there were nine gubernatorial candidates. There were seven in 2014 and 10 in 2010.

Grunwald is the mother of David Grunwald, a teenage Mat-Su who was murdered in December 2016. She went on to become a strong advocate for the rights of victims of crime and tougher sentences. She ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, finishing second in the Republican primary behind Kevin Meyer, who went on to win the general election.

After the election, Dunleavy invited Grunwald to her first state of the state address and appointed her to a paid position on the parole board. While on the board, he greatly reduced the number of people on discretionary parole.

She donated to Dunleavy’s campaign as recently as Dec. 28, according to campaign finance reports.

“Good guy,” Grunwald said of Dunleavy, “nothing against him. He just didn’t ask me to run with him. I had someone ask me to run with him, someone who’s smart, who’s driven, and the reason he wants to be in there is for Alaskans, not himself.

Grunwald said she would have been happy to finish her term on the parole board and then go fly-fishing, but she changed her mind in “a moment of clarity”, and Saturday’s announcement was followed by a week and a half of preparation.

The gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates are running together as one ticket due to a 2020 initiative known as Ballot Measure 2. In the August 16 state primary, every voter will be invited to choose a ticket. The four tickets that receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November, where a final winner will be chosen by ranked vote.

All four tickets will advance regardless of party affiliation, allowing multiple Republicans to advance. (As of Monday, no other party has more than one candidate running.)

[VIDEO: What is ranked-choice voting, and how does it work in Alaska?]

Besides Pierce and Grunwald, the list of candidates includes:

• Dunleavy, who has yet to announce his nominee for lieutenant governor. (Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer is not running for re-election.)

• Democratic candidate Les Gara and lieutenant-governor candidate Jessica Cook.

• Independent candidate and former Governor Bill Walker and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Heidi Drygas.

• Libertarian candidate Billy Toien and Lieutenant Governor candidate Shirley Rainbolt.

• Republican candidate and current Wasilla State Representative Christopher Kurka and Lieutenant Governor candidate Paul Hueper.

• Republican Candidate Bruce Walden and Lieutenant Governor Candidate Tanya Lange.

• Republican candidate James “Jimmy” Cottrell, running with Lieutenant Governor candidate Brittany Cottrell.

Jimmy Cottrell is a technician who works on fire suppression systems. On Monday, he was working on the North Slope and described himself as a conservative-libertarian and a “worker”. His sister, Brittany, 36, is an engineer at ConocoPhillips.

Brittany Cottrell said both siblings are lifelong Alaskans and are generally interested in supporting the oil and gas industry, reducing regulations and paying a large dividend to the Permanent Fund.

“I never had any political aspirations. I really don’t want to race, but I can’t see any other way to accomplish what needs to be done, said Jimmy Cottrell. “And that’s what we see with our current administration, unfortunately.”

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