Begich, Walker meet, but no decision yet on who will go


Gov. Bill Walker and Mark Begich met early Monday afternoon in an undisclosed location in Anchorage. The two candidates for governor had tried all week to iron out who is going to stay in the race against Mike Dunleavy for governor, and who might find a way to gracefully bow out.

Gracefully is the operative word: A sitting governor doesn’t just step aside and a former U.S. senator doesn’t either, especially when he has the Democratic Party behind him.

They both know a three-way is trouble¬†against a Republican candidate of the stature of Dunleavy; Begich and Walker both occupy the same space in the electorate — the progressive, Bernie Sanders Democrats and others on the political left. Dunleavy has the political right locked down.

Complicating the matter is the sitting lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, who gave up his own aspirations to be governor in 2014, and accepted the understudy role, allowing Walker to win the election after the Alaska Democratic Party jettisoned two duly elected candidates — Walker’s running mate Craig Fleener and Mallott’s running mate Hollis French.

Mallott been a loyal soldier, rewarded by being allowed to basically run day-to-day operations in government to the extent he wishes to. And so to combine a Walker-Begich ticket would be an act of deep disloyalty to Walker’s most stalwart ally.

As of sundown on Labor Day, both Begich and Walker were still in the race — Begich as the top Democrat in the state, and Walker as whatever he wants to be on any given day.

Begich has been making the case for weeks that he, in fact, actually has an advantage over Dunleavy, while Walker is bumping along the bottom in third place as one of the least liked incumbent governors in the nation.

Walker brings recent baggage — lying about how he wouldn’t impose taxes and lying about how he wouldn’t take the Permanent Fund dividend from Alaskans.

His administration has been marred by scandal, from the $850,000 he gave to his consultant friends like Rigdon Boykin, which paid off unsettled debts from previous joint ventures, to appointing Roland Maw to the Board of Fisheries, only to then find him embroiled in the largest Permanent Fund dividend fraud lawsuit in Alaska history. The scandals have continued, crime has spun out of control, and the governor has been distracted by his enchantment with China.

But he has the endorsements of the unions, which is no small advantage.

Begich is the actual nominee of the Alaska Democratic Party — with 33,451 votes already from the August primary. That’s his baseline as he heads into November.

The Alaska Democrats, his base, have not had such a good candidate for governor in years, and they’re not likely to see a person of his caliber run for governor for a long time under their banner. If they let this one go, and allow a full eight years to pass without a candidate for governor, it damages their party’s brand.

Add to that is the prize of redistricting: The Alaska Democratic Party knows that the next governor has a great deal to say about how the redistricting board is shaped, and there will be new lines drawn across the state that will influence who has power: In Southeast, a diminishing population means Southeast Alaskans will lose at least one half a seat in the House, while the Mat-Su Valley will gain a seat. The way those lines get drawn will have a powerful impact on who controls both the House and Senate.

If Walker is elected again, he will owe no allegiance to the traditional Democratic constituency that brought him to the party. With term limits, he would never face reelection, and therefore Democrats would not be able to count on him for anything.

Ultimately, either Begich or Walker must announce their decision before the close of business on Tuesday, Sept 4th. That decision will have been reached, as it was in 2014, behind closed doors, far from the inquisitive eyes of the voters. If one of them drops, there will have been a price to pay by the other, and voters won’t know what that price is until the election is far behind us.



  2. This is difficult to predict with no obvious or easy solution. I see a 3 way race as the most likely outcome given the personalities and circumstances. Or perhaps Mallot steps aside for Begich then Walker retires after two years? Whatever happens Mike Dunleavy is the best candidate for a better Alaska.

  3. If Mr. Mallot steps aside for Mr. Begich, to be Walker’s Lt. Governor, I expect we will see many, many letters to the editors of Alaskan newspapers claiming that Walker and Begich are racists for forcing Mr. Mallot out.

  4. I’ve been a republican my whole life, but I’m finding it real hard to jump on the Dunleavy train. All I see is someone who abandoned his elected duties and now wants us to bestow him with more. He left when there were tough decisions to be made and now campaigns on what he would have done different. He was there, he could have done something different, he left. I seem to be one of the few republicans I know that see’s a problem with this and I just cant wrap my head around that.
    Not a fan of elections where I’m voting against somebody, instead of voting for somebody. Unfortunately this is becoming the new norm.

    • As a Senator, Mike Dunleavy offered a very pragmatic and sustainable budget. It was never heard in committee, let alone the floor. When he voted against the unsustainable budget in 2018 he lost committee leadership assignments and all but one of his staffers, and was ousted from the Majority Caucus. Working against a majority that was already complicit with the majority in the House and with the Governor, he had no way of moving a sustainable budget.

      Since he cannot campaign for Governor while the Legislature is in session, and based on the history of special sessions, he had but one choice, and that was to resign his Senate seat so he could focus on running a successful campaign for Governor.

    • Read my reply “Fred” over on Dermot Cole’s article that Begich commented on. Dunleavy realized we need to get the state spending in line and with Walker in there it was totally dysfunctional. Our state government agency spending should not cost 3X per capita more than states like Idaho, Utah, and South Dakota. Dunleavy actually proposed something close to that, bringing it from 4.3B to 3.3B, although in my opinion his plan didn’t cut far enough.

      Begich has no plan and you can bet he will initiate taxes long before he makes any cuts to this bloated bureaucracy.

  5. As a former Republican, I will not support Dunleavy, period. Walker needs to step aside, hurt feelings and all. He didn’t do right by Alaska but either way, he loses. He needs to take his lumps and move on!

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