Dahlstrom defends as fair pick for top Alaska elections role

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom on Thursday defended as fair and impartial her pick to lead the state’s elections office, a longtime state employee who has supported Republican candidates and groups.

Carol Beecher, who was named to the post by Dahlstrom a day earlier, told reporters her “political leanings and philosophies don’t play into the decisions that I make.” Beecher most recently led the state’s child support division. She said the work in that area involved looking at laws, regulations and legal opinions “to make sure that we were impartial, fair and consistent across the board.”

“It’s just essential that Alaskans can trust this process and know that it’s fair,” she said.

Beecher succeeds Gail Fenumiai, who had a long career with the division and retired last year after administering Alaska’s first ranked choice elections. In Alaska, the lieutenant governor oversees elections. The Division of Elections director is a nonpartisan role.

Beecher began working for the state in 2005 under several Republican elected officials, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Beecher has been a registered Republican and made contributions to Republican groups and campaigns, including that of Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Dahlstrom last year.

Dahlstrom said she was unaware that Beecher had donated to the campaign when she made the appointment. She said she “strongly assumed” Beecher was a Republican but did not look up Beecher’s registration.

State law says the director of elections and others in key positions in the office “may not join, support or otherwise participate in a partisan political organization, faction, or activity, including but not limited to the making of political contributions.” The law allows the director and other key elections staff to register for a party, vote and express private opinion but they cannot be officers of a party or political committee.

Beecher said before her appointment she was able to make donations, but as director, “I will not be donating, I will not be participating in political situations at all.” Beecher said she does not plan to change her voter registration.

Dahlstrom declined to say how many candidates she considered for the job. She said Beecher’s experience is following the law and maintaining neutrality.

Voters in 2020 approved a new elections process that replaced party primaries with open primaries and instituted ranked voting in general elections. The first elections under that process were held last year.

A group is seeking to gather signatures for a proposed ballot measure that would reinstate party primaries and eliminate ranked vote elections.