Sealaska Plaza and the Sealaska Heritage Institute are seen during a dedication ceremony Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Sealaska Corp., the regional Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, says it is not making an endorsement in the new-look governor’s race. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Sealaska Plaza and the Sealaska Heritage Institute are seen during a dedication ceremony Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Sealaska Corp., the regional Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, says it is not making an endorsement in the new-look governor’s race. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Tlingit & Haida, Sealaska Corp. decline to endorse gov candidate

Neither entity is endorsing Begich or Dunleavy

Correction: A previous version of this article identified Anthony Mallott, Byron Mallott’s son, as the chairman of Sealaska. He is the corporation’s CEO not chairman. The article has been updated below.

Sealaska Corp. will not make an endorsement in the new-look Alaska governor’s race.

The regional Alaska Native corporation for Southeast Alaska had originally endorsed incumbent independent Gov. Bill Walker for re-election, who has since dropped out of the race. When asked if Sealaska Corp. would be backing Democrat Mark Begich or Republican Mike Dunleavy instead, the answer was neither.

In an email Wednesday, Sealaska Corp. communications manager Dixie Hutchinson shared a statement explaining the corporation’s decision.

“Sealaska takes on policy efforts on behalf of our shareholders and communities and on rare occasions, endorses candidates. Sealaska’s board endorsed Governor Walker for multiple unique reasons, such as his recognition of Tribal sovereignty and working with Tribes on their priorities, more so than any other administration in Alaska’s history,” she wrote. “We respect Governor Walker’s decision to withdraw and support Senator Begich, but we choose not to endorse a candidate.”

The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, also headquartered in Juneau, is likewise not making an endorsement in the governor’s race.

“There’s been no talk of that,” said Raeanne Holmes, the tribe’s communications coordinator. “The practice is we’re really trying to be cautious and move away from endorsements as a tribe.”

The tribal administrator for the Douglas Indian Association was traveling to the National Conference of American Indians convention in Denver and not immediately available for comment.

Sealaska’s inaction on the narrowed governor’s race comes after the corporation donated $100,000 to an independent expenditure group backing the re-election of Walker and then-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. A spokesman for that group did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Mallott is a former Sealaska Corp. board chairman, and his son is the corporation’s current CEO.

Mallott resigned as Lieutenant Governor last week after making what Walker described as “inappropriate remarks” to an unidentified female, which preceded Walker’s announcement a few days later not to seek re-election.

While Sealaska Corp. is not endorsing a governor candidate, it is strongly opposing the passage of Ballot Measure 1, which would institute new environmental protections in order to defend salmon habitat.

Alaska Native corporations such as Sealaska own 92 percent of Alaska’s privately held land and would be disproportionately affected by Ballot Measure 1. Ten of the 12 regional Native corporations are opposing the measure. Bristol Bay Native Corporation is neutral on its passage, while AHTNA Inc. supports its passage.

Dunleavy and Libertarian candidate Billy Toien oppose the measure, while Begich supports it.

On Saturday, Calista Regional Native Corporation switched its endorsement from Walker to Dunleavy because of Ballot Measure 1.

Calista, the regional Native corporation for much of southwest Alaska, owns the subsurface rights to the land beneath the proposed Donlin Gold mine on the Kuskokwim River and has a significant interest in its development.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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