Former state Senate Mike Dunleavy, left, Gov. Bill Walker, center, and former U.S. Senator Mark Begich shake hands after a debate at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Centennial Hall on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Former state Senate Mike Dunleavy, left, Gov. Bill Walker, center, and former U.S. Senator Mark Begich shake hands after a debate at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Centennial Hall on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker abandons election

Incumbent independent throws support behind Democratic candidate Mark Begich

Gov. Bill Walker abandoned his bid for re-election on Friday.

In an announcement at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage, the incumbent independent said he is suspending his election campaign and is throwing his support behind Democratic candidate Mark Begich. Walker is not resigning; he will complete his term in office.

“As of today I am suspending my campaign,” he said after taking the stage.

The proclamation drew gasps and cries from the audience.

It comes days after the resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott under uncertain circumstances. Mallott withdrew from the election on Tuesday, the same day he resigned, leaving the Walker-Mallott campaign in limbo.

“In the time remaining, it has become clear we cannot win a three-way race,” Walker said.

The deadline for withdrawing from the general election ballot has already passed; the names of Walker and Mallott will still appear before voters. Early voting begins Monday, but more than 20,000 absentee ballots have already been mailed to voters, and more than 1,000 have already been voted, according to figures from the Division of Elections.

Walker’s withdrawal leaves three candidates in the governor’s race: Democratic candidate Begich, Republican Mike Dunleavy and Libertarian Billy Toien.

Begich is Walker’s preferred candidate, he said in his address.

“Alaskans deserve a competitive race. Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy,” Walker said, claiming that if Dunleavy is elected, he will eliminate Alaska’s expanded Medicaid program, de-fund the proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, and “undo the bipartisan approved sustainable fiscal plan.”

AFN delegates interrupted the regularly scheduled agenda after Walker’s address in order to deliver a series of speeches praising and thanking Walker for his actions as governor. In particular, the delegates thanked him for his apology for colonialist actions by the state and territorial government.

One speaker proposed a resolution accepting Walker’s apology, and it was unanimously approved with a standing ovation from the audience at Anchorage’s Dena’ina Center.

Then, a series of representatives from tribes and Native corporations across Alaska came to the stage and offered their remarks. Some offered gifts literally off their backs and necks to the governor.

Will Mayo, the emcee for much of this year’s AFN ceremonies, appeared stunned by the proceedings.

“That kind of sacrifice in my mind only comes from a heart of love. Where else does that come from?” he said. “I’ll never forget this. This is a historical moment, folks. This is a historic moment in the state of Alaska.”

Walker’s withdrawal speech

Walker’s campaign emailed the full text of his speech to supporters and the media after its delivery. It is reprinted below:

I ran for re-election because I still believe that, more than anything else, Alaska deserves integrity, honesty, and courage.

Alaska First is, and cannot only be, a campaign slogan. When I said I ran for governor to do the job, not make the decisions to keep the job, I meant exactly what I said. Every decision I have made as your governor, I have made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska.

With that said, effective today, I am suspending my campaign for re-election as Governor. With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election.

But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race.

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.

Alaskans deserve a competitive race. Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy, whose record and campaign rhetoric indicate he will:

• eliminate Medicaid Expansion that has provided health care access to 44,000 Alaskans, created jobs and brought $1 billion federal dollars into the Alaskan economy while decreasing State healthcare expenditures by $16 million, kept hospitals from closing, and saved lives;

• defund the Alaska LNG Gasline project that has made historic progress, will create 12,000 high paying construction jobs, 88,000 direct and indirect jobs and deliver low cost energy to our homes and businesses;

• undo the bipartisan approved sustainable fiscal plan that has resulted in fiscal stability, significantly reduced the deficit, improved our credit rating and preserved the PFD program into perpetuity;

• 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 health care.

Moreover, my administration has worked tirelessly to improve the relationship between Tribes and State and restore respect for Alaska’s First Peoples in state government. 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. My expectation is that this work critical to the healing of historical trauma and unifying all Alaskans will be undone in a Dunleavy administration.

On balance, it is my belief that despite my many differences with Mark Begich, his stance on the important issues I have listed above more closely align with my priorities for Alaska.

This is not the first difficult decision I have made this week, but it is one I know I must make. There simply are no words to express my deepest gratitude to the incomparable, dedicated team of outstanding Alaskans who have served in my administration and to the thousands of supporters, donors, volunteers and campaign staff who have been passionately committed to my re-election. And above all, I want to say thank you to my family and to Donna, my first lady for life.

As I said earlier this week, ultimately, it’s not how long my team and I serve, it’s how well we served the people and the state we love while the opportunity was ours. We have served with integrity, courage, devotion, and compassion, never asking ourselves whether a decision is politically correct but always asking if it is right for Alaska. I am proud of the work we have done in the most challenging fiscal crisis in state history and it is the honor of my life to have served as the governor of this great state.

Thank you, God bless you all, and may God continue to bless Alaska.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


Alaska Gov. Bill Walker abandons election
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker abandons election
Gov. Bill Walker has withdrawn from the general election, he said Friday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2018. Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, left, Democratic candidate Mark Begich, right, and Libertarian candidate Bily Toien (not pictured) remain in the race. (Composite image)

Gov. Bill Walker has withdrawn from the general election, he said Friday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2018. Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, left, Democratic candidate Mark Begich, right, and Libertarian candidate Bily Toien (not pictured) remain in the race. (Composite image)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Shell station in Anchorage. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
Shell abandons North Slope oil leases, raising questions about the industry’s future in Alaska

Experts say some of the state’s hard-to-tap oil prospects are becoming less attractive.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Columbia state ferry sails through Lynn Canal on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Alex McCarthy / Juneau Empire file photo)
Columbia ferry out of service until end of the year

51-year-old ship has been out of service since November; corrosion in fire system cited for delay.

Jennifer Brown plays the drum while Jarrell Williams dances at an MMIP rally on the Alaska State Capitol steps on May 5. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska lawmakers approve additional support for addressing missing and murdered Indigenous people

Cultural training for law enforcement officers and dedicated MMIP investigators among updates.

Rep. Sara Hannan (left) and Rep. Andi Story, both Juneau Democrats, talk during a break in floor debate Sunday, May 12, at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s legislative delegation reflects on lots of small items with big impacts passed during session

Public radio for remote communities, merit scholarships, fishing loans among lower-profile successes

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his vision for Alaska’s energy future at the Connecting the Arctic conference held in Anchorage on Monday. Next to him is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, invited to Anchorage to speak at this week’s Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy examining energy bills passed by Alaska Legislature

Expresses optimism about carbon storage bill, pondering next steps on royalty relief that failed.

Most Read