When he gave a speech announcing his withdrawal from the election, Gov. Bill Walker told his audience that they should support Democratic candidate Mark Begich.
On Monday, Walker’s campaign said the incumbent’s support of Begich has its limits.
In a message to supporters, Walker campaign spokeswoman Lindsay Hobson wrote, “Independent expenditure groups are running advertisements that go far beyond the scope of these areas of alignment into areas where I am not necessarily aligned with Mr. Begich. I have asked that these ads be immediately edited or removed. However, anyone with questions as to where I stand on the issues of this election should look solely to my statement on October 19.”
By phone, Hobson said the message refers to a minute-long radio ad that included Walker’s support for Begich and touched on Begich’s support for abortion rights.
That is “definitely not an area where they see eye to eye,” Hobson said.
Walker explained his views on abortion in a September opinion column in the Anchorage Daily News, saying, “It is not secret that I am personally pro-life.” He went on to say that he believes the Alaska Constitution’s privacy protections preserve abortion rights.
Begich has said believes that too, but he thinks the Alaska Legislature can pass legislation to “whittle away” at abortion rights, which is why it is important to have a governor who is willing to veto such legislation.
While the Walker campaign contacted the group behind the ad over the weekend, it issued a statement because some Alaskans had already heard it, she said.
“The governor’s support of Mark Begich — it’s narrow,” Hobson said.
While Walker and Begich “do see eye to eye on the economy, the (Permanent Fund Dividend), the gasline … on other issues, they do not see eye to eye, and to take that narrow scope of support and extend it to a universal endorsement is inappropriate,” she said.
On Oct. 19 at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage, Walker declared that it had “become clear we cannot win a three-way race” and “Alaskans deserve a competitive race. Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy.”
He warned that Dunleavy’s election would mean the elimination of an expanded Medicaid program, an end to the proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline and a reversal of “the bipartisan approved sustained fiscal plan.”
Walker’s campaign has told supporters to take down their yard signs, but a spokeswoman for the Begich campaign said by email that interaction between the two groups has been minimal.
“Some staff reached out during transition either about logistics like yard signs or potential volunteer opportunities,” wrote Nora Morse by email, adding in a subsequent message that there have been no high-level conversations.
In the days since Walker’s withdrawal from the race, Begich has seen a surge in fundraising support, though he still trails Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy by a significant amount.
Dunleavy is supported by several multimillion-dollar independent expenditure groups, such as Dunleavy for Alaska, which had spent $915,000 by Oct. 5, and the Republican Governors’ Association-backed Families for Alaska’s Future, which had reported $2.7 million in contributions by Oct. 8.
Begich is seeing some support from a group that formerly backed Walker. The indpendent group called Unite Alaska for Walker transferred more than a quarter-million dollars to a new group calling itself Alaskans Opposing Dunleavy. That group was created four days after Walker’s withdrawal from the campaign, and its treasurer is the same person behind the Walker group.
On Monday, a new group calling itself Defeat Dunleavy registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. The group has not filed its first report with APOC but is headed by the Democratic Governors Association’s director of independent expenditures.
Updated campaign finance figures are expected by the end of the day Tuesday.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.