The lieutenant governor's pick to head the Division of Elections was until last month the chairwoman of Alaska's Young Republicans, prompting Democrats to protest that she is too partisan for the job.
Whitney Brewster, Republican Lt. Gov. Loren Leman's deputy chief of staff, was named by Leman to replace outgoing division director Laura Glaiser. She is slated to take over when Glaiser steps down Nov. 1.
Brewster was chairwoman of the Young Republicans-Alaska, a volunteer position affiliated with the state's Republican Party, from 2003 until this September.
Democratic Party chairman Jake Metcalfe said that background makes Brewster too partisan to be placed in the job of overseeing elections. He said election officials' credentials must be beyond reproach and he accused Leman of putting the interests of the Republican Party ahead of Alaskans'.
"She's a partisan. She is someone who has engaged in partisan politics," Metcalfe said. "It doesn't help or give the appearance that the elections process is going to be fair."
Metcalfe said he fielded a call from Leman on Thursday. The lieutenant governor told Metcalfe he objected to Metcalfe's comments and that Brewster was no longer an officer in the Young Republicans.
Metcalfe said that didn't matter. "It would be like me quitting today and taking over the Division of Elections office tomorrow," he said.
Leman defended his choice. He said Brewster's qualifications stem from her working as his office's liaison with the division and that she meets the legal requirements of the job. She will be able to maintain impartiality, but she also has the right to keep her political affiliation and express her opinions privately, he said.
"She is very competent and will do a fine job," Leman said.
Brewster has been an aide to Leman since 2000, when he was in the Legislature, and she also was last year's winner of the Mrs. Alaska-America beauty pageant. She said elections conducted under her watch would be fair and accurate.
"I want to say emphatically that it is not my political affiliation that defines me. It is absolutely my integrity," she said.