Walker drops bid for re-election
Gov. Bill Walker announced thesuspension of his re-election campaign at the start of what was to be a candidates’ forum at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage Oct. 18.
Standing with his wife Donna and other family members at his side, Walker shocked the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at what is one of the nation’s largest gatherings of Native people.
“In the time remaining it’s become clear we cannot win a three-way race. Every decision I’ve made as your governor, I’ve made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska. With that said, effective today I am suspending my campaign for reelection as governor,” Walker said.
Walker’s news comes on the heels of accepting the resignation of his Lt. Governor, Byron Mallott on Tuesday, for making inappropriate comments to a woman.
Walker and his staff refused to say what, how and to whom the comments were made.
The campaign was already tough going for the incumbent as his popularity took repeated hits for what he termed as making the tough decisions to reduce the state’s more than $3 billion budget deficit.
Reducing the annual Permanent Fund Dividend checks to every Alaska resident was one of the least supported decisions that overshadowed much of Walker’s achievements in reigning in the budget, expanding Medicaid coverage and strengthening relationships with Alaska Natives by appointing many to positions of importance in his administration.
The entry of one-term Democratic U.S. Senator and former Anchorage Mayor, Mark Begich on June 1 caused even more of a threat to his bid for re-election.
Polls since had shown Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy as a likely winner with Begich and Walker splitting voters at the ballot box. Both campaigns were reportedly meeting to discuss “a path forward” to reduce Dunleavy’s chances.
With Walker’s announcement, he threw his support toward Begich explaining that there are more policy areas where they agree than disagree. Walker stated fears of losing the expansions made in Medicaid and in reducing the fiscal deficits, among those achievements threatened by a Dunleavy win.
Walker and his family were kept on stage for what became a series of impromptu goodbyes by representatives of each Alaska Native tribe in attendance. Representatives sang Quyana and hymns as they lined up to hug Lt. Gov. Davidson, Walker, his wife and daughter Lindsay, who was present as well.
Many speakers, including Gail Schubert, president and CEO of Bering Straits Native Corporation, expressed appreciation for the governor’s efforts on their behalf.
Schubert said she was in caucus when she heard the news and, surprised at the announcement, came to the main stage . “The first time I remember seeing you I didn’t know who you were then, because it was when your team came to Unalakleet to play basketball,” Schubert said. “I just remember all these really tall big white guys in our little gym,” she said to smiles and laughter from Walker.
“I just want to thank you for everything that you and your administration accomplished while in office and specifically with regard to Bering Straits I really appreciate your and your administrations help with regard to Port Clarence. That was really critical,” Schubert said. “To say that I am personally really sad about this,” she said as she finished by asking those in the Bering Strait delegation to stand to acknowledge Walker and wish him and Donna well.
Following the heartfelt goodbyes, the candidates’ forum resumed with debates between Democrat Alyse Galvin and incumbent Republican Rep. Don Young for Alaska’s at-large U.S. House seat, and Begich and Dunleavy for governor.