WHITE-KNUCKLE GAME OF CHICKEN BETWEEN BEGICH AND THE GOVERNOR
The most powerful politician in Alaska today is not Gov. Bill Walker, but Mark Begich.
So powerful, that Walker has, with 30-odd hours until the deadline, not yet filed with the Division of Elections to run on the Democrats’ primary ballot, as he announced publicly and confidently he would in April. He’s watching Begich’s every move.
Why? He is worried that Begich, a registered Democrat, will jump in and file, and if Begich does, Walker will have to retreat to the “petition ballot” as an undeclared candidate. He’ll be a man without a party again, but this time, the Democrats will drop him, unlike their full-throated support in 2014.
Between now and Friday, Mark Begich and Bill Walker are locked in a battle of wits, as the Dread Pirate Roberts and Vizzini were over the “Iocane” poison battle of wits over goblets of wine in the film, The Princess Bride:
HERE’S HOW IT COULD PLAY OUT
Today, Walker will join a panel of gubernatorial hopefuls at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association conference in Anchorage. It appears that Mark Begich will not be on the stage, but Mike Dunleavy, Scott Hawkins will.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Mead Treadwell is readying his paperwork for the Alaska Public Offices Commission, and Mike Chenault is said to be dropping out of the governor’s race today. (Must Read Alaska was not able to reach Chenault and Treadwell for confirmation. Treadwell was flying back from California, where he was attending the wedding of his former speechwriter, Michaela Goertzen.)
Must Read Alaska will cover the AOGA debate-forum, which is expected to be seen by hundreds at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR — DEEP SPECULATION
After the debate, Walker will either stay in Anchorage or fly to Juneau and pace while he waits to see what Begich will do. If Begich files for the Democrat primary, Walker will yield that field to him and go directly to the general election as a petition candidate — a man with no party.
- Both Begich and Walker are likely to have watchers stationed at each of the six offices of the Division of Elections, cell phones in hand, watching to see if the candidates arrive, and reporting back to their camps.
- Begich is not returning calls to the media, which is unusual for him; he always returns calls.
- If Begich files as a Democrat, he’ll need a lieutenant governor candidate to file as well. Currently, no Democrats have filed for lieutenant governor. (Mallott is a Democrat, but wedded to the decision of Walker). Begich will need one. Who will it be: Sen. Bill Wielechowski? Rep. Ivy Spohnholz? Or someone from Fairbanks? Election office watchers will need to keep their eyes peeled for likely applicants.
- If there is no Democrat lieutenant governor candidate, but Begich files, the current lieutenant governor would need to issue an emergency order to relax the rules and allow the Alaska Democratic Party and Begich to appoint a replacement.
- By filing, even if he loses, Begich helps the Democratic Party take back its power from the uncontrollable “no party” group that has taken it over. Begich would then be in a position to run for Senate in 2020.
- Walker will not likely drop out right away, but Begich appears to have a poll that he likes the looks of for a three-way race.
- Begich could simply file by mail, and skip the drama. So long as his application is postmarked before 5 pm, he could outsmart Walker and not appear anywhere near an Election office on Friday.
THE WILD, WILD LEFT
Walker has embraced the Democrats as his own over the past three years, hiring Begich alumni into leading positions, establishing a climate change panel, and embracing taxes for Alaskans and businesses. He’s socialized the gasline project and expanded Medicaid so that one third of Alaskans are now part of the system. He’s done everything the Democrats have told him to do.
All that, and even announced he will run in the Democrats’ primary. It could all slip away in the next 30 hours.