In recent months, the campaigns of no-party candidate Bill Walker and Democrat candidate Les Gara, both vying for liberal votes for governor, have looked more and more like the same campaign. The two are blending and are at this point nearly indistinguishable.
Each man has his own woman running mate. Heidi Drygas is wedded to the campaign of Walker, and Jessica Cook is the “political wife” of Les Gara.
Drygas and Cook are in their support roles this week advertising the campaigns jointly, in “rank the blue” style pitches in the final days leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
They want voters to vote their team first, and the other team second on the ranked-choice ballot. Both teams would be satisfied, they signal in their ads, if Dunleavy were to be replaced by either of Walker or Gara. The two campaigns have stopped criticizing each other in recent weeks, and are still just offering abortion and taxes in ads that are increasingly shrill.
To state the obvious: The Walker and Gara campaigns have combined; they are separate in name only. Walker has co-opted the Democrat ticket once again in a desperate act reminiscent of what Walker did in September of 2014, when he combined his campaign with Byron Mallott, the Democrat who was running for governor that year, and who had won the Democrat primary. Walker convinced Mallott that he could not win (Walker was going to serve as the spoiler), and his only option was to be No. 2, with a promise that Mallott could run the government, while Walker worked on the gasline.
It came to pass quickly that Mallott ditched his own lieutenant governor candidate, Hollis French, and Walker ditched his pick, Craig Fleener. Deals were hashed out to ensure that, should the new Walker-Mallott ticket win, both of the former lieutenant gubernatorial candidates would be taken care of.
Walker and Mallott went on to win with the help of a complicit mainstream media, fixated on a phony scandal cooked up by the Walker and Democrat operatives. And the rewards to the two men who bowed out? French would get a seat on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Fleener would get the coveted job of director of the Governor’s Office in Washington, D.C. Both were plum patronage jobs.
Now, in 2022, another deal appears to be in the works — this time with Walker making a deal with the Democrats once again. Must Read Alaska has learned there are agreements between the two men, both of whom are lawyers familiar with how to negotiate.
Would a Gov. Gara make Walker the head of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation so he can work on his passion — building a gasline?
Would Walker, as governor, make Gara his attorney general?
Another curiosity of the new Walker-Gara shadow ticket is that in 2014, Mallot received 42,327 votes in the Democrat primary. That is almost exactly the number of votes Walker received in the 2022 August jungle primary: 42,943.
Gara, in the August, 2022 primary, edged out Walker by getting 43,511 votes. If their plan works and if their voters do as they are instructed by Walker-Gara, the result in the general election could technically give one of them enough to get to 50%+1, which is what is needed to win in the ranked-choice election.
Combined, they have a possible 86,459 votes in the general election, although the Democrats may be highly motivated to turn out this year to elect Mary Peltola to Congress, which would shift the calculus in favor of the Walker-Gara ticket.
Gov. Dunleavy did better than either of the lead challengers in the primary, with 76,248 votes; he had a more crowded field of conservatives on the primary ballot to contend with and some of those conservative voters who opted for other conservatives on the ballot will come his way in the general election.
Also in the general election, Dunleavy might expect to pick up some of Republican Charlie Pierce’s and even Republican Chris Kurka’s voters; Pierce took 12,439 votes and Kurka received 7,281 in the primary. That would be enough to secure a second term for Dunleavy, with a possible 96,000 votes in the first round of counting. That doesn’t even count where the Libertarians and Alaskan Independence Party voters put their marks on the ballot.
Modeling shows that Dunleavy has a 77% chance of winning reelection, which would be the first time in Alaska history since Gov. Jay Hammond that a Republican has secured a second term. But it doesn’t appear he can win 50+1 on the first round of counting. He’ll need those Charlie Pierce second votes.
According to analyst Logan Phillips, an Obama alum, at RacetotheWH.org, Walker has but a 31% chance of making it to the final round, while Gara has a 67.5% chance of making the final round.
Gara also has a better chance of winning than Walker, although slight; Gara has an 11.9% chance of winning and Walker has a 9.8% chance, according to the RacetotheWH analysis.