Alaska Governor Bill Walker suddenly and unexpectedly dropped out of his bid for re-election today with less than three weeks to go before the election, according to a report in The Anchorage Daily Mail.
Walker, a former Republican turned Independent, bailed on the race just a few days after his running mate, Democratic Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, stepped down from his office and exited the race after giving a vague explanation of undelineated “inappropriate comments” made to a woman as the reason.
Walker was much clearer in offering his reasons for dropping out of the race.
“Every decision I have made as your governor, I have made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska,” Walker told the crowd at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. “With that said, effective today, I am suspending my campaign for re-election as governor,” he said to audble gasps from the audience.
Governor Walker threw his support to the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich, who will be continuing his fight against the right-wing Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy. The governor apparently made his endorsement decision based on conversations with Begich whom he described as more in sync with his vision for Alaska’s future than the Republican candidate.
“On balance, it is my belief that despite my many differences with Mark Begich, his stance on important issues that I have listed are more closely aligned with my priorities for Alaska,” Walker said, citing his support of Medicaid expansion, pursuit of an Alaska natural gas pipeline project and state spending on rural Alaska and education.
Both Walker and Begich have been trailing Dunleavy in the polls, but the realignment has instantaneously made the race competitive again.
“In the time remaining, it has become clear we cannot win a three-way race,” Walker said. “The decisions was made that at this point, Begich has the better odds. Alaskans deserve a competitive race and Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy.”
Democrats were naturally ecstatic over Walker’s decision since it now gives them a chance to win an election that they had all but given up hope for when Begich was running 17 points behind Dunleavy.
“This is a game changer in the Alaska Governor’s race. This race immediately becomes a tossup, open-seat race between a popular Democrat in Mark Begich and a fringe Republican in Mike Dunleavy,” Democratic Governors Association executive director Elisabeth Pearson said in a statement.
Alaskans lauded the governor for his politically selfless move and gave him a standing ovation after his announcement.
“I’ve never seen such a selfless, courageous action by a sitting politician,” Will Mayo, Alaska Federation of Natives board co-chair, said to the crowd. “This is a historical moment folks.”
With ballots already printed including Walker’s name on them, Alaskan election officials are scrambling to figure out how to handle the sudden withdrawal, particularly when it comes to absentee ballots that may have already been mailed in. They promised to have more information by on how they’ll proceed with the mechanics of the election on Monday.
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Original reporting by