Gov. Bill Walker announced at AFN this afternoon that he is suspending his campaign for re-election. He has thrown his support to Mark Begich for governor and gave a stinging rebuke to candidate Mike Dunleavy, the Republican who is the leading candidate for governor. Begich is a Democrat.
Walker made courtesy phone calls to those closest to him to share the news in advance of the debate today, where he was scheduled to spar with Begich and Dunleavy.
Instead, he was giving the stage at about 2:40 pm and made a stunning announcement that he will not run for re-election due to not enough time left between the devastating events of the week and the end of the election cycle on Nov. 6.
Speaking of Dunleavy, he said that the former rural schoolteacher-turned-senator would cut Medicaid expansion, reduce school funding, and take away funding for the Alaska LNG project.
His statement indicates he has made a deal with Begich to preserve those priorities, especially the gasline project that is dear to him.
His voice cracking and his face distorted, Walker struggled through his remarks. His announcement brought a huge gasp from the audience, and a standing ovation when he left the stage with his wife Donna Walker, his daughters, and two grandchildren, along with Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson.
After his announcement, a song was sung by delegates, and then several delegates spoke words of thanks to the governor for having issued an apology to the Native people of Alaska for the historic wrongs, and other emotional speeches about Walker’s good deeds as governor.
The agenda of AFN was suspended while speech after speech was made, along with a prayer by First Lady Donna Walker, and other formalities that included the gifting of presents and singing of songs. The event was very emotional for the entire body in attendants. Several members of the governor’s team were present and some were seen leaving quickly in tears.
Earlier in the week, Walker received the news that his former lieutenant governor had had an inappropriate exchange with a young woman, and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott was forced to resign over it. The news set the Walker-Mallott campaign back, and even with the swearing in of Davidson, there was not enough time to get back on track, Walker acknowledged today.