Gov. Bill Walker is out of his race for re-election, but he is jumping into others.
In a 10-minute campaign appearance Tuesday afternoon, Walker formally endorsed Juneau independent Chris Dimond for election to the Alaska House of Representatives. Walker said it was the first of what will be two or three endorsements in this year’s general election.
“It’s good to stand by a candidate who also is a (union local) 1281 carpenter, a background of building things and making decisions, an independent, and so I wish all the best. I’m more than happy to stand with you and do what I can to help you across the finish line,” Walker said.
Dimond is running as an independent in the election for House District 33, which covers Haines, Skagway, Gustavus, Douglas and downtown Juneau. He faces Democratic candidate Sara Hannan in the general election.
Dimond has picked up the endorsements of most of Alaska’s labor unions. Hannan is endorsed by the National Education Association-Alaska and the Alaska Center (formerly known as Alaska Conservation Voters). Both have been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.
“It doesn’t surprise me that an independent went with an independent, and Chris’s team has been made up of Walker staffers,” Hannan said.
Democratic governor candidate Mark Begich has endorsed Hannan, going so far as to personally donate to her campaign and host a fundraiser for her and other female candidates at his home in Anchorage. Begich also supports Andi Story in House District 34 and Jesse Kiehl in Senate District Q.
Dimond said his campaign has been seeking Walker’s endorsement for months.
“It was talked about early on in the campaign, and then they reached out to me this last week and said he would like to do an endorsement. I was onboard to accept that endorsement,” Dimond said. “It’s a huge honor. Personally, it means a lot. I’ve been a big supporter of the governor’s.”
Though Walker withdrew from the governor’s race on Oct. 19, telling the Alaska Federation of Natives conference that “we cannot win a three-way race,” he appears to remain popular among a significant fraction of Juneau voters, particularly in the downtown and Douglas precincts that make up a majority of House District 33’s residents.
Walker-for-governor signs still decorate some homes and yards, even after Walker asked supporters to remove them.
In 2014, voters within the district went overwhelmingly for Walker instead of incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. Nearly two-thirds of the gubernatorial votes in House District 33 were for Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat who formerly served as Juneau’s mayor.
If Dimond were elected, it would mark a landmark shift for Juneau. He would be the first non-Democrat to represent downtown in the House since Mildred Banfield in 1974.
Asked whether the district supported Walker, Dimond said, “I think it does. I think those undecided voters will see this as maybe a deciding factor for them.”
At least one of those voters is definitely for Dimond: According to the state’s voter database, Walker is registered to vote in Juneau, with his address listed as the governor’s mansion.
Asked whether he will announce any more legislative endorsements (Dimond was his first; he already endorsed Democratic candidate Mark Begich for governor) Walker said, “I think there may be one or two more. It’ll be pretty selective. I’m very careful about being a sitting governor and doing an endorsement.”
When asked why, Walker said, “I just think I’m the governor of all — everybody’s a constituent. I have 730,000 constituents and so I have to give thoughts about those kinds of things.”
Talking to Dimond supporters after the endorsement, the governor said his post-election plans involve some quiet time.
“I am going to go build a couple cabins — four cabins, to be exact — so I’m really looking forward to that. I’m going to do it just myself. I’ve just got to have that time … that’s my therapy,” he said.
As for Dimond, “I couldn’t be more proud to stand by this man,” Walker said. “Alaska’s going to be better as a result of people like yourself that are going to put people before politics.”