Just 18 days before voters head to the polls, independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced he’s dropping his bid for re-election and throwing his support behind the Democrat in the onetime three-way race.
The latest Alaska Survey Research poll shows former state Sen. Mark Dunleavy with 43 percent of the vote, Walker with 27 percent and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) with 26 percent.
Walker said in a statement tonight that he fears the vote split will leave Alaskans without Medicaid expansion and “cause our most vulnerable to suffer the brunt of the additional $1 billion in budget cuts he vows to make to education, rural Alaska and those receiving healthcare.”
The governor said that he felt with more time than 18 days until the election he “could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election.”
“Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race,” Walker said. “This week I have talked to many Alaskans to determine whether I or Mark Begich had a better chance of running a competitive race against Mike Dunleavy. The determination was made that, at this point, Begich has the better odds.”
“Yesterday, I apologized on behalf of the State of Alaska for the wrongs committed against the Alaska Native people throughout our history, because I believed that was best for Alaska,” he added. “My expectation is that this work critical to the healing of historical trauma and unifying all Alaskans will be undone in a Dunleavy administration.”
Walker said dropping out was “not the first difficult decision I have made this week, but it is one I know I must make.”
Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot resigned this week over “inappropriate comments” made to a woman, but the details around the incident, including what he said and to whom, weren’t made clear.
“Byron recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as lieutenant governor,” Walker said Tuesday. “I learned of the incident last night. Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and has resigned.”
Mallot said in his resignation letter that he was “compelled by inappropriate comments I made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability … I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt.”
Mallot was on the independent ticket with Walker before stepping down.
Begich and Dunleavy debated tonight at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention after Walker dropped out.