Resignation Shakes Up AK Gov. Race 10/17 06:41
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- In a stunning October surprise, Alaska's lieutenant
governor resigned Tuesday for making unspecified "inappropriate comments,"
imperiling the re-election hopes of Gov. Bill Walker, a man with whom he shared
a brother-like bond.
Walker, who has been locked in a tough re-election fight with Democrat Mark
Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy, had already been in talks with Begich. The
talks centered on a "path forward for Alaska" and stemmed from concerns about
Dunleavy and the dynamics of a three-way race, Walker campaign manager
John-Henry Heckendorn said. Begich's campaign manager did not immediately
return a message.
Walker described Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott's comments as an "inappropriate
overture to a woman," Walker spokesman Austin Baird said.
Mallott's sudden departure is a shocking blow to a ticket that began of
political necessity in 2014 but grew into a partnership born of respect and
Walker and Mallott, both running for governor in 2014, decided their best
shot at defeating Republican Gov. Sean Parnell was to join forces. As part of
that arrangement, backed by state Democrats, Walker changed his party
affiliation from Republican to undeclared and Mallott, an Alaska Native leader
and Democrat, ran as Walker's lieutenant governor. They won.
Neither felt he was making a huge sacrifice: Walker, who had skipped the
Republican primary for an outsider bid, said he had felt marginalized by the
GOP. Mallott, who had developed an easy rapport with Walker while they were
rivals, said he trusted him.
The seeds of their relationship had been sown months earlier, which the two
spoke about in recent interviews.
Mallott, impressed that Walker had not flitted in and out of the Alaska
Federation of Natives conference as he said candidates sometimes did, brought
him onstage. That struck Walker, who called Mallott the "Elvis of AFN."
At a debate in Nome --- "our first official date," Walker joked --- they
agreed on so much that people afterward suggested they should get together.
Before another event, Mallott told Walker, "I never would have run against you
if I had known you."
"Who says that on the way to a debate?" Walker said.
While the two disagree on some social issues, they shared a mutual respect
--- greeting each other with hugs, seeking each other's advice --- and were
guided, they have said, by doing what they think is right for Alaska.
Mallott said the men agreed early on that if there was a decision to be made
on an issue they disagreed on because of faith or core moral values, such as
abortion, that Walker would speak with him before making a final decision. But
Mallott said he never forgot who was governor.
This year, their desire to run together helped seal what some have seen as
an uphill battle for Walker, a three-way fight between him, Begich and Dunleavy.
After the state Democratic Party changed its rules to let independents run
in its primaries, Walker flirted with going that route. But he backed out when
it appeared that Begich would run. Walker instead gathered signatures to get on
the Nov. 6 ballot, a move that assured he could run with Mallott. Libertarian
Billy Toien also is running.
Some Democrats and independents have worried that Walker and Begich would
split the vote, giving the race to Dunleavy. Libertarian Billy Toien also is
Dunleavy, in a statement, said his campaign has been about the people of
Alaska, not politicians. While awaiting details surrounding Mallott's
resignation, he said his campaign "remains focused on restoring trust in state
Mallott did not return a phone message Tuesday. Walker took no questions
during a news conference with Valerie Davidson, who was sworn in as lieutenant
Mallott, in a resignation letter, apologized for "inappropriate comments I
made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of political
Baird said the incident that led to Mallott's resignation happened Sunday.
Walker learned of the comments Monday, from his chief of staff, Baird said.
He said Walker's office is trying to be careful in what details it releases
because the woman involved does not want to be publicly identified.
Heckendorn said the talks with Begich's campaign are separate from Tuesday's
resignation of Mallott. The talks so far have been inconclusive but will
continue, he said.
Mallott's resignation was announced shortly after an at-times testy debate
in Anchorage featuring Walker, Begich and Dunleavy, the perceived front-runner.
In a statement, Walker said it's too late for Mallott's name to be removed
from the ballot, but he said Mallott would not accept the post of lieutenant
governor if elected. Davidson will assume the role of his running mate, he said.
Victoria Campbell, who was attending the Alaska Federation of Natives
conference in Anchorage as word of Mallott's resignation began to spread
Tuesday, was stunned by the news.
The Democrat from Gambell, located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea
between Russia and the United States, said she didn't know enough to comment on
the resignation but did say it wouldn't affect her vote for Walker.