Dunleavy, after cruising to reelection, is sworn in for historic second term

Dunleavy, the first Alaska governor to be reelected since 1998, starts his second term with a new lieutenant governor, Nancy Dahlstrom

By: - December 5, 2022 5:30 pm
Gov. Mike Dunleavy hugs his wife, First Lady Rose Dunleavy, after being sworn in to a second term on Monday.Behind them is Kit Dahlstrom, husband of Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, who was also sworn into office at the Monday ceremony. Dunleavy, a Republican, is the first Alaska governor to be reelected since Democrat Tony Knowles won a second term in 1998. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy hugs his wife, First Lady Rose Dunleavy, after being sworn in to a second term on Monday.Behind them is Kit Dahlstrom, husband of Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, who was also sworn into office at the Monday ceremony. Dunleavy, a Republican, is the first Alaska governor to be reelected since Democrat Tony Knowles won a second term in 1998. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Mike Dunleavy kicked off his second term as Alaska’s governor on Monday with a swearing-in ceremony and a pledge to help Alaska take advantage of its global position in a time of rapid change.

“Alaska’s in an interesting position on the globe. And what’s happening internationally is going to put Alaska even more so on the globe,” said Dunleavy, a Republican, in a brief speech after taking the oath of office in a ceremony held at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines sports arena. 

The Arctic is warming, “and we can see that ourselves,” and that will make Alaska even more important internationally, he said.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom speaks after being sworn into office on Monday. Dahlstrom is a former state lawmaker who served as the Dunleavy administration's commissioner of corrections before joining the gubernatorial ticket. She succeeds Dunleavy's first lieutenant governor, Kevin Meyer. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom speaks after being sworn into office on Monday. Dahlstrom is a former state lawmaker who served as the Dunleavy administration’s commissioner of corrections before joining the gubernatorial ticket. She succeeds Dunleavy’s first lieutenant governor, Kevin Meyer. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

“Alaska’s position as a logistics hub with our international airport is only going to grow. It’s going to make Alaska a more important position on the globe for shipment. Our resources, which are second to none, are going to also help catapult Alaska into fulfilling its age-old promise of being a resource supplier for not just the United States but for the world,” he said.

To achieve the state’s motto of “North to the Future” will take a long-term approach to problems, Dunleavy said.

“We’ve got to invest in ourselves, we have to invest in our people, we have to invest in our kids,” he said.

Dunleavy is the first Alaska governor to be re-elected since Democrat Tony Knowles won the 1998 race. He used his speech to call for compromise and collaboration, and he pledged to use that approach himself.

“I’m going to work with everybody and anybody,” he said, listing people across the partisan aisle, legislators, local government officials, Native corporations and Native tribes, “all the entities in the state of Alaska that make this a great state.”

Rose and Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. 0ancy and Kit Dahlstrom watch as dancers from the Alaska Native Heritage Center perform at the start of Monday's inauguration ceremony. Dunleavy, a Republican, became the first Alaska governor elected to a second consecutive term since Democrat Tony Knowles won the 1998 election. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Rose and Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Nancy and Kit Dahlstrom watch as dancers from the Alaska Native Heritage Center perform at the start of Monday’s inauguration ceremony. Dunleavy, a Republican, became the first Alaska governor elected to a second consecutive term since 1998. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Also sworn in on Monday was Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, a former state legislator who served as Dunleavy’s corrections commissioner before joining the gubernatorial ticket earlier this year. Dahlstrom succeeds Kevin Meyer, who did not run for reelection.

“To my fellow Alaskans, I promise that over the next four years I will serve you to the best of my ability and I will dedicate myself to making an Alaska where our grandchildren can grow up and thrive,” Dahlstrom said after taking the oath of office.

Dunleavy holds a ceremonial drum, from Toksook Bay, that was presented to him as a gift at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday. The gift was from the Alaska Native Heritage Center dancers, who performed shortly before Dunleavy took the oath of office. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Dunleavy holds a ceremonial drum, from Toksook Bay, that was presented to him as a gift at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday. The gift was from the Alaska Native Heritage Center dancers, who performed shortly before Dunleavy took the oath of office. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Aside from marking the first time since 1998 that an Alaska governor was reelected, the Dunleavy-Dahlstrom victory is historic in other ways. Dahlstrom noted that she is the first Republican woman elected as lieutenant governor, and Rose Dunleavy, who is from the Inupiat village of Noorvik, is the first Alaska first lady from north of the Arctic Circle, her husband noted. Dunleavy planned to hold his first inauguration in Noorvik four years ago, but the actual swearing in ceremony in 2018 was in Kotzebue after his flight was unable to land in Noorvik due to the weather conditions.

Dunleavy, Dahlstrom and others who spoke at this year’s ceremony made references to the series of emergencies that the state has faced over the last four years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, but also several natural disasters like wildfires, floods and storms.

“There’s been some moments in the last four years that I’m sure that some people were saying to themselves, ‘What’s next? Locusts? volcanoes?’” Dunleavy joked.

Chris Hawk and Lisa Hawkins of the Pipeline Vocal Project sing the Alaska Flag Song to close Monday's ceremony in which Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom were sworn into office. Behind them are Pastor Manoj Ingle, state Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman and Pastor. Kenneth Friendly. Roetman administered the oath of office for Dunleavy and Dahlstrom, and Ingle and Friendly spoke at the ceremony, held at the University of Alaska's sports arena. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Chris Hawk and Lisa Hawkins of the Pipeline Vocal Project sing the Alaska Flag Song to close Monday’s ceremony, in which Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom were sworn into office. Behind them are Pastor Manoj Ingle, state Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman and Pastor Kenneth Friendly. Roetman administered the oath of office for Dunleavy and Dahlstrom, and Ingle and Friendly spoke at the ceremony, held at the University of Alaska’s sports arena. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Still, Alaska has come out “intact,” with among the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country and other accomplishments, he said.

“There may be some that count this great state out, but this is truly ‘North to the Future,’ and that’s what this is about. That’s what the next four years are going to be,” he said.

Though he was reelected handily, Dunleavy suffered some rocky political times during his first term. After directing a series of deep budget cuts that slashed services at institutions like the University of Alaska and the state ferry system, he was the subject of a recall campaign that appeared to be on its way to the ballot – until petition signature-gathering was interrupted and ultimately ended by the pandemic.

Since then, the state’s finances have recovered, in large part because of a jump in oil prices resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Dunleavy’s political standing recovered, too. He won this year’s election, the first under the state’s new ranked-choice system, with 50.29% of the first-choice votes, eliminating the need to tabulate second choices.

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Yereth Rosen
Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen came to Alaska in 1987 to work for the Anchorage Times. She has been reporting on Alaska news ever since, covering stories ranging from oil spills to sled-dog races. She has reported for Reuters, for the Alaska Dispatch News, for Arctic Today and for other organizations. She covers environmental issues, energy, climate change, natural resources, economic and business news, health, science and Arctic concerns -- subjects with a lot of overlap. In her free time, she likes to ski and watch her son's hockey games.

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