Notes from AFN



While Mike Dunleavy for Governor’s campaign booth was busy on Thursday, Gov. Bill Walker cancelled his campaign booth at AFN, but his manager John-Henry Heckendorn had already booked the bar a the Anchorage Hotel for a fundraiser, and that was harder to simply cancel. The event had some 50 sponsors on the flyer when it was publicized last week, and this was a Native-focused fundraiser.

By the time Thursday rolled around, it was no longer a fundraiser, but an informational reception from 5-7 pm.

About 15 people were still in the bar at 6:30 pm, among them the governor, his campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn, his official press secretary Austin Baird, and the governor’s Climate Change Adviser Cayenne Nikoosh Carlo, who had flown in from her home in Seattle for the convention. First Lady Donna Walker was headed out the door, looking exhausted, while her husband stayed behind, sitting with a couple of men on bar stools.

AFN Co-Chair Ana Hoffman attended briefly, but left by 6:30 pm as well. People had come through to pay their respects and conversations were in hushed tones.

Heckendorn said that things were wrapping up. Yes, this writer, observed, they certainly appeared to be.

Only hours earlier, Walker had given a speech to the crowd at AFN, in which he acknowledged it might be his last appearance before them as governor. His speech was halting and somewhat broken, but he was warmly received, especially after giving a heartfelt apology to all Alaska indigenous people for the harm caused to them by the State of Alaska.

“I conclude today with this message, as the 11th governor of the State of Alaska, I apologize to you, Alaska’s first people, for the wrongs that you have endured for generations,” Walker said.

“For being forced into boarding schools, I apologize.”

“For (being) forced to abandon your Native language and adopt a foreign one, I apologize.”

“For erasing your history, I apologize.”

“For the generational and historic trauma you have suffered, I apologize.”

“This apology is long overdue. It is but one step of hundreds more to go on this journey toward truth, reconciliation and healing.”

They gave him a standing ovation as he left the stage.

[Read: Walker’s farewell, apology tour]

Later on Thursday, the governor’s deputy chief of staff took to Facebook to ask journalists to back off of the news story that concerns the behavior of former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who was forced to resign on Tuesday.

The “truth and reconciliation” would only extend to historic trauma, and not to current abusive behavior of a man who could have become governor, if Walker had been unable to serve.

Earlier in the week, AFN leaders took off the agenda the resolution to endorse for governor, although it may be brought up again before the weeklong proceedings end on Saturday.
Noticeably missing throughout the convention have been campaign buttons — no one is wearing one for Walker-Mallott, Begich-Call, or Dunleavy-Meyer.
The Dunleavy for Governor booth was very popular, however, bustling with activity. “I Like Mike” Stickers were the hot item and the booth volunteers had to call for more from the campaign.
Today on the schedule is a candidate forum beginning at 2:20 pm, to be moderated by Ana Hoffman. The candidate panels will feature U.S. Congressman Don Young and his Democrat challenger Alyse Galvin; and gubernatorial candidates Mike Dunleavy, Mark Begich, and Bill Walker.


  1. Bill Walker and Byron Mallott, and the people who work for them like Austin Baird and Claire Richardson have brought the State of Alaska to a very fragile place at the moment by hiding. People have every reasonable right to assume the worst about the Mallott incident and Walker’s role in the cover-up.

      • Once again, I’ll avoid going into explicit detail for obvious reasons. Given that the name of the person who confronted Byron Mallott is by now well known on the street and that she received publicity earlier this year for an incident which led to criminal charges, this smacks of one big game of blackmail to me, likely engineered to produce the series of events we’ve seen transpire this past week. That she’s been described as a Fairbanks resident in the law enforcement field is no surprise. The mayor and police chief, who both took office at around the same time, earned a reputation right away for using their influence behind the scenes to interfere with the employment or other financial well-being of locals known for expressing “unpopular” opinions and with others viewed as supporting them. In the case of those two, however, I’m having a hard time deciding whether their behavior can be compared to Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover or to Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.

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