Matthew Smith/KNOM, Steve Heimel/APRN
Alaska’s three-way race for governor is now a two-ticket contest after Democratic candidate Byron Mallott and Independent Bill Walker declared they’ll run together.
Today [Tuesday] is the last day for changes to the November ballot, and that deadline kept the Mallott and Walker campaigns negotiating until late last night — before announcing the two men will run together—Walker as the gubernatorial candidate and Mallott as the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate on the “Alaska First Unity Party” ticket. Walker says the decision of who should ultimately be the man to run for governor under the “unity” ticket was simply driven by data.
“We’ve seen a number of polls over the last few months, and so we’ve seen how things are coming out, and in a head-to-head poll, we just took right after the primary, had me about 4 or 5 points ahead of Governor Parnell,” he said. “So, the numbers really drove that decision.”
It was a decision endorsed by the Democratic Party’s central committee on a vote of 89 to 2 Monday night for the switch to an independent ticket. Democratic Party spokesman Zack Fields says Democrats believe the state is in trouble under Sean Parnell’s leadership and Walker and Mallott share similar beliefs about how to address the state’s problems.
“Byron Mallott and Bill Walker were both talking about the need to balance budgets, fix the school cuts that Sean Parnell has promoted and stand up for Alaska fisheries, so it made sense for them to team up,” Fields said.
He added that it is unprecedented for the Alaska Democratic Party to not have a candidate on the ballot for Governor.
With Mallott now running as lieutenant governor, the men who were hoping for that job—Walker’s running mate Craig Fleener and Mallott’s Hollis French—will step down, with Walker’s thanks.
“I’m very appreciative of their willingness to put Alaska’s interests ahead of politics, so we look forward to an administration that is non-partisan, not based upon one political persuasion or another,” Walker said.
Walker says he’s focusing on Alaska’s deficit spending.
“We borrow about $7 million a day, Alaska does, from our savings account to stay afloat. And we can do that for about five years,” he said. “We will reach a point that, um, when we run out of savings, what then? So it really is the ‘fiscal cliff’ that’s causing me concern.”
And Walker says he and Mallott will move to expanded Medicaid—the federal government’s low-income healthcare program—something Governor Parnell opted out of leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s launch last November. Walker says Alaskans have already paid for it, would help 40,000 uninsured Alaskans and create 4,000 new jobs.