THE PRICE OF OWNERSHIP
The most powerful political figure in Alaska between now and June 1 is … Mark Begich.
That would make Gov. Bill Walker the most anxious political figure in Alaska, because of … Mark Begich.
Democrats are now worried about Walker’s reelection chances, with good reason. With his “unfavorables” extremely high and his favorables dropping, according to a recent Morning Consult poll, Walker is the least popular governor in the nation. He’s in a public opinion tailspin.
Appointed staff members in the Walker Administration are beginning to look for safe landing spots and have less than nine months to find one. The latest to hit the road is Craig Fleener, who was originally Walker’s running mate, but who was cast aside in 2014, and then given a cushy position that required no deliverables. Fleener is contacting influencers and reconnecting with the “other side.” Last week, the governor’s rural adviser Geoffrey Godfrey clocked out for the last time.
Begich and the Democrats will try to push Walker into their Democratic primary once a Supreme Court case is decided this month that determines whether unaffiliated candidates like Walker can run on the Democrats’ primary ballot.
Organized labor can also be expected to put tremendous pressure on Walker to enter the Democrats’ primary.
If Walker does decide to go that way, Begich could easily beat him in that primary and has until close of business on Friday, June 1 to file as a candidate.
Talk about a nail-biter for Walker.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
It means between now and June 1, Mark Begich owns the governor. He can extract anything from him that he wants because the vainglorious Bill Walker loves being governor and will want to hang on, at any price. It remains to be seen if what Begich really wants is the big white house on Calhoun Avenue.
BLOOD IN THE WATER
For his September campaign kickoff in Anchorage, Walker boasted dozens of co-hosts from across the state, and he has signed up dozens of deputy treasurers for his campaign as a show of force.
But for this Friday’s Walker-Mallott fundraiser in the populous Mat-Su Valley, the governor could muster only a few loyalists, and some are retreads from the inaugural fundraiser above. Notably missing is Democratic Party Chairwoman Casey Steinau, even though she lives in the Mat-Su. During Walker’s election in 2014, her party was the key to his success, but it appears that either Walker is creating distance between himself and the Democrats, or the Democrats are “keeping their powder dry,” as instructed to by Mark Begich in an August letter to supporters.
Meanwhile, Begich will not forget that in 2014, Walker refused to endorse Begich’s re-election for U.S. Senate. Begich, who had won the seat from Sen. Ted Stevens six years earlier, lost to Dan Sullivan and is now looking for just the right comeback.