Supporters of Gov. Bill Walker’s re-election bid said Wednesday that they remain behind the incumbent independent following the abrupt resignation of his running mate, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.
Mallott resigned Tuesday afternoon following what Walker press secretary Austin Baird called an “inappropriate overture to a woman.”
It is still not clear what Mallott said, and the governor has not revealed who was involved in the incident that led to the lieutenant governor’s resignation. Mallott was replaced by Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, the commissioner of health and social services and the third person in Alaska’s chain of succession.
“Nothing criminal happened, but Byron did the right thing by resigning,” Mallott Chief of Staff Claire Richardson said by text message Wednesday. She did not elaborate.
Both Davidson and Walker spoke Wednesday at a tribal conference in Anchorage but did not elaborate on Tuesday’s decision. The pair are scheduled to speak at Thursday morning’s opening session of the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference in Anchorage.
It is too late for Mallott to be removed from the Nov. 6 general election ballot, but John-Henry Heckendorn, manager of the Walker-Mallott campaign, said Mallott will be replaced by Davidson. If the Walker-Mallott ticket is picked by voters, Mallott would refuse to serve (or resign once elected), allowing Walker to appoint a replacement, presumably Davidson.
Walker’s competition includes Democratic candidate Mark Begich, Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy and Libertarian candidate Billy Toien.
Early voting begins Oct. 22, but some absentee voters have already returned ballots. According to figures provided by the Alaska Division of Elections, 951 ballots had been voted and returned by mail by the end of Tuesday.
Juneau Democrat Bruce Botelho was an early supporter of the Walker-Mallott re-election campaign and said by cellphone Wednesday that he still backs Walker for governor even if he is disappointed about what happened in Mallott’s case.
“I’m extremely disheartened and it is a tragic end to a career that has done many great things for Alaska,” he said of the former lieutenant governor.
Mallott and Botelho each served as mayor of Juneau.
Botelho said he knows about the incident that led to Mallott’s resignation, “but I’m not going to discuss it.”
Ian Fisk, son of former Juneau Mayor Greg Fisk, also has endorsed the Walker-Mallott re-election campaign and said he is “absolutely still in support of Gov. Walker.”
Ann Metcalfe of Juneau is more ambivalent.
“For me, personally, it’s too early to say” if she still supports the re-election bid.
She said her priority is to avert the elevation of Republican governor candidate Mike Dunleavy to the third floor of the Alaska Capitol. She believes Walker and Begich need to unite in order if either has any chance to defeat Dunleavy, who has held a consistent polling and financial advantage in the four-way race.
“Those two, Walker and Begich, have to talk, and it sounds like they’re doing that,” she said. “Now, I’m kind of feeling like that if they can’t get together, then they’re both to blame.”
Begich was in Ketchikan on Wednesday, attending the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp convention before traveling to Anchorage.
The Democratic candidate told Zachary Halaschak of the Ketchikan Daily News that he and Walker have not spoken to each other since Mallott’s resignation.
Speaking to public radio reporter Leila Kheiry of KRBD-FM, Begich said the next few days “will be very enlightening” when it comes to the governor race.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.