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Alaska Democrats aim to block Palin's state Senate pick

Gov. Sarah Palin has appointed legislative aide Tim Grussendorf to the state Senate seat that opened when Juneau Democrat Kim Elton resigned. It's a controversial pick that Grussendorf's own party says it will try to block.

Palin had to pick a Democrat from Juneau for the seat under state law. But Grussendorf was a registered Republican until just weeks ago, then switched to being a Democrat to qualify for the appointment. Grussendorf now needs a majority vote of the nine Democrats in the state Senate to approve his appointment.

Juneau Democratic Party officials want state House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula to get the Senate seat instead and are rallying party leaders statewide.

"We're asking them to call their senators and encourage their senator to stand behind Beth Kerttula and vote this nomination down," Rich Listowski, a state Democratic Party central committee member from Juneau, said after Palin made the pick Sunday.

Grussendorf, however, does have Democratic bona fides and relationships with the senators who will vote on him. He is chief of staff for Bethel Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman and his father is Ben Grussendorf, a former Democratic state House speaker from Sitka. Tim Grussendorf himself ran for the state House as a Democrat in 2002, losing to then Juneau Republican Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch.

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