JUNEAU, Alaska – Alaska Governor Bill Walker surprisingly surprised that he would give up his candidacy for re-election within less than 21 days to boost Democratic rival Mark Begich's chances of beating Republican Mike Dunleavy.
Walker, the country's only independent governor, said Friday he could not win a three-way race and Alaskan would have a choice but Dunleavy. There are a lot of things that he and Begich disapprove of, but Walker said Begich would be better for Alaska.
Whether Begich can overtake the presumed front runner remains to be seen with two and a half weeks before the election. Begich, who said his campaign was "flooded" after Walker's announcement, believes he can win.
Some Democrats and Independents had long been worried that Walker and Begich would share the vote and give the race to Dunleavy. Walker, a former Republican, was elected in 201
Following his announcement, Dunleavy campaign manager Brett Huber vilified Walker's "bitter partisan struggle" on Dunleavy. In a statement, Huber Walker's decision to drop his re-election bid will make voters "a clear choice".
Key themes in the race are crime, the economy and the future of Alaskan's annual check received from the state's oil – US Financial Fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund
Walker worries that Dunleavy has taken measures he has taken as governor , can reverse, such as the extension of Medicaid. Dunleavy expressed concern about the program
Dunleavy, a former state senator, wants to reduce government spending and supports a full payout of permanent fund dividend checks. Alaskans should have a say in each proposed change to the calculation of the dividend through an advisory vote, he said.
The level of controls has been limited since 2016, first by Walker and then by legislators because of budget deficits. Legislators this year began using the Permanent Fund's revenues to fill much of the deficit after going through billions of dollars in standstill savings and rejecting Walker's tax proposals. The proceeds of the fund will also be used for dividend examinations, creating the conditions for a political struggle.
Begich, a former US senator, has worked to protect the dividend and to use bonds for infrastructure projects. He also noted his support for the abortion rights that distinguish him from Dunleavy and Walker.
Walker's announcement came three days after his deputy governor and close friend, Democrat Byron Mallott, had resigned. Walker told reporters that there was not one thing that caused him to give up his campaign now, even though he said it was a tough week. He said conversations he had with Begich about Begich's positions and dynamics of the race were also considerations.
"There was no quote for negotiating such a thing as such," he said.
Begich said there talks with Walker about Alaska's future, which arose out of shared concerns over Dunleavy.
"So we would continue to talk to find out if there is a way forward to move Alaska and unite it in a way that makes sense, and we are where we are," he said.
Jay Parmley, Executive Director of the State Democratic Party, said he expects additional assistance from the Democratic National Committee. The Republican Governors Association has already made an important contribution to a third party group that supports Dunleavy.
Upholstery Ivan Moore said that people are starting to pay more attention to the race. But he said the influence of Walker's decision remains to be seen. He said Dunleavy could also record some Walker voices.
Stephen Gasche, a Juneau Independent, leaned toward Walker and Begich before Mallot's resignation. On Friday he said he would vote for Begich. "I'm so glad I can not vote early!" He said via Facebook Messenger.
Lindy Jones, a Juneau Walker supporter, blamed Begich for a three-way race, but said he would "reluctantly" choose him.
Alaska Democrats opened their primaries to Independents, and Walker, who wanted to run with Mallott, flirted with entering elementary school. He stepped back as Begich ran and instead collected signatures to appear on the ballot, a move that made sure he and Mallott could become buddies.
Jones said Walker's decision to abandon his election campaign is another example of tough decisions
"I think he realizes that there will be a spoiler if it's a three-way race and that's the only hope, "Jones said. "And frankly I do not know if it will be enough."
Libertarian Billy Toien is also running.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.