ALASKA NATIVE VOTE IS UP FOR GRABS — RIGHT NOW WALKER SHOWS WELL
The Alaska Democratic Party is suffering from a fracture between Alaska Natives with a lingering loyalty to former Sen. Mark Begich, the Democrat, and those already committed to Gov. Bill Walker, the no-party candidate. Both men have Alaska Native running mates.
Walker has a fundraiser for himself with Alaska Native leaders on June 28. The campaign party takes place in the comfortable Sand Lake neighborhood in Anchorage, and the host list shows solid support in the Native community for the Walker/Mallott ticket, in spite of the fact that Begich has long been a favorite with the largely Democrat-voting Native population.
In 2014, Begich ran “an expensive, sophisticated political field operation that reaches into tiny villages along rivers and in mountain ranges throughout the vast Last Frontier. The Begich ground game is on a scale far beyond anything that has been tried here before,” according to the Washington Post, which covered the race extensively that year.
But that was 2014.
The list of co-hosts who are sponsoring this week’s Walker-Mallott-Native Alaska Issues fundraiser show Native leaders clearly still onboard:
Georgianna Lincoln, Chris Cooke, Aaron Schutt, Anthony Mallott, Barbara Donatelli, Gabe Kompkoff, Gail Schubert, Jason Metrokin, Rex Rock, Shauna Hegna, Adrian Lecornu, Ana Hoffman, Andy Teuber, April Ferguson, Crawford Patkotak, Even Peter, Greg Razo, Jody Potts, John Baker, Julie Roberts Hyslop, Liz Medicine Crow, Melanie Bahnke, Melissa Borton, Nancy Barnes, Ralph Anderson, Reggie Joule, Richard Peterson, Sheri Buretta, Steve Ivano, Tim Towarak, Victor Joseph, Vivian Korthuis, and Will Mayo.
According to Must Read Alaska’s research, least 15 people on the list are registered Democrats, and many with deep connections to the Alaska Native community, including leaders of Alaska Native regional corporations and village corporations.
The upcoming Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention, Oct. 18-20 in Anchorage, will test the Native community’s resolve to stay with or leave the governor. AFN endorsed Walker/Mallott in 2014. Will the powerful AFN endorse the ticket this year?
The Alaska Democratic Party establishment has gone a different way with a different message. It’s all-in on Begich this year, and it is beginning to differentiate between the solid Democrat it now supports (Begich) and the wishy-washy hybrid ticket it cobbled together in 2014.
A clip from a social media account run by the party indicates that the party is supporting Begich in part because of his LGBTQ platform:
The LGBTQ platform is not yet a central concern of Alaska Native organizations and although Walker/Mallott had a booth at the Pride festival, they did not attend, nor march in the parade, as Begich did. But it’s certainly an important element to the Alaska Democratic Party — important enough to tie Begich to their wagon to court voter enthusiasm.
A recent Walker poll gives the governor reason to gain confidence, showing him doing well in a three-way race with Begich and Mike Dunleavy, the presumed Republican frontrunner: Walker 39, Dunleavy 34, Begich 25.
But in Begich’s favor is that he will appear on the Aug. 21 primary ballot, and chances are a lot of Natives will vote that ballot. A vote for him in August could translate to a vote for him in November. Walker, without a party, is going straight to the November ballot, where Democrat voters will have to decide whether to stay with their August pick, or switch to the no-party Walker.
Which way will Alaska Natives go? For now, it appears Walker’s head start against Begich is holding, and in the Native community he still has a loyal following.
He can thank his Democrat running mate, Byron Mallott, for much of that loyalty.