TALKS UNDERWAY TO COMBINE WALKER-BEGICH
The campaign manager for the Bill Walker for Governor camp has publicly confirmed that talks have been underway between Walker and Mark Begich, the Democratic nominee for governor.
Now that Byron Mallott is out of the way on Walker’s ticket, that leaves an opening for Walker to fill. Although Valerie Davidson was sworn in as lieutenant governor for now, Walker has no path to re-election at this point, and he knows it. There is no poll on earth that shows him winning in a three-way race. He needs Begich.
The two of them could then unleash the hounds of Hell on Republican nominee Mike Dunleavy. The distasteful smear they have prepared for Dunleavy will be unlike anything ever seen in Alaska politics. But they still cannot win in a three-way.
The backroom deal that Walker and Begich are trying to cut without Alaskans’ knowledge is almost exactly what happened in 2014, and Alaska ended up with the worst four years in Alaska history and Mallott resigning in disgrace. This underscores why the people should decide these things at the ballot box, and not allow politicians to rig elections in secret.
What’s in it for Mark Begich? His political future. The former U.S. senator didn’t get the traction he thought he’d get when he filed for governor in June, and he doesn’t have enough money to run a legitimate campaign. He’s likely to come in a distant third place and that would dash his political hopes for several years to come, if not permanently.
Begich’s only possible play is to form a ticket with Walker and be the lieutenant governor nominee on a new ticket.
AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, who has millions of dollars at stake and his own reputation as a kingmaker, knows it. Walker campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn knows it.
But does Begich accept it? That’s the tough nut to crack.
Begich is not a good fit for Walker. The two men do not like each other, and Begich cannot trust that if he throws his support to Walker, that Walker will make good on his word and appoint him after the election. More to the point, he cannot trust that Walker will give him a meaningful role in the adminstration should they win.
Would this new Hydra ticket pass legal muster?
With Democrat Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson now in charge of the Division of Elections, they have a complicit operator who will step aside and allow the new ticket with less than three weeks to go. She can find a reason to demurrer to Begich.
History informs this maneuver. In 2014, the Democrats were able to convince Hollis French to drop off their ballot, even though he had been elected as the nominee for lieutenant governor. He was rewarded with a plum sinecure.
Byron Mallott dropped off the ballot as the Democratic nominee for governor and accepted the second slot on the ticket with Walker, who jettisoned his own running mate, Craig Fleener, and then gave him a four-year, high-paying job with no deliverables attached.
That ticket-mandering was challenged by the Republicans in court as a fraud on the voters, but the judge accepted it by saying, essentially, “that’s politics, get over it.”
But in 2018, the ballots have already been printed. Thousands of absentee ballots have been voted already. It will be up to Walker’s Administration, with Davidson in charge of Elections, to explain the new scheme, and will be up to Walker’s attorney general to defend it.
In this scenario, Davidson would agree to say that although she is now the lieutenant governor, she would not be the candidate on the ballot. She will provide a plausible case for why she doesn’t want to “run” for re-election after having served for just a few days.
“Under the Alaska Constitution, a vote for governor is considered a vote for the lieutenant governor running with him or her,” according to the Division of Elections.
Presumably, Walker is free to appoint Begich as his running mate for purposes of campaigning, even though Mallott’s name will still appear on the ballot.
“Even if a lieutenant governor withdraws, the gubernatorial candidate may remain on the ballot,” the division said. “Accordingly, if Governor Walker is re-elected, Byron Mallott will technically be elected along with him.”
Begich would also remain on the ballot as the Democratic nominee, even if he agrees to become the running mate to Walker.
Therefore, Walker and Begich would have to expend massive campaign funds to explain to voters that they should ignore Mallott’s name on the ballot and assume that the Lt. Governor would be Begich, and ignore Begich’s name and assume he will join Walker after the election.
The question is if someone votes for Begich, is that also a vote for Walker? If they are running mates, this is the argument they will likely make to the courts: A vote for either of them is a vote for the other. But would the courts support this level of chicanery?
It gets even deeper. Under current state law, a vacancy in the office of Lt. Governor is filled from a cabinet commissioner who has been designated by the governor in advance as first in line for succession. That designation is subject to approval by the legislature.
Absent a court ruling that sanctioned a different path, Walker would have to appoint Begich as a commissioner after the election, get legislative approval to name him as first in line for succession to Lt. Governor, have Valerie Davidson (or Mallott since he would technically be re-elected) resign, then appoint Begich.
That convoluted path of pitfalls might be a bridge too far for Mark Begich.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Yet, John-Henry Heckendorn, Walker’s campaign manager, has revealed two things that are in conflict:
- Walker, if elected, would appoint Davidson for the four-year term.
- Talks are underway with Begich to do anything they can to prevent a Mike Dunleavy governorship (which can only mean one thing).
Revealingly, the Walker campaign has suspended all volunteer activities for the week. And, Valerie Davidson is the keynote speaker for the Alaska Federation of Natives on Thursday. The clock is ticking for a decision.
Last night, the campaign headquarters for Mark Begich were dark, with no apparent activity, even though the Begich camp should be pouncing on what appears to be a #MeToo meltdown of the Walker campaign. An odd time to be idle, unless the very definition of the two tickets are in limbo.
Clearly, talks are underway in a private room, somewhere, during what has been a frustrating election season for both Walker and Begich. They are not done trying to salvage their quest for power. They both know that if they don’t find a way to agree, they are likely to go down the drain together.
The manipulation and corruption of the election process started in 2014 under the thumb of left-wing power brokers Vince Beltrami and Alice Rogoff. It may be time for Republicans to lawyer up and prepare to contact the Department of Justice to prevent voters from being disenfranchised yet again, this time in the final weeks of a major statewide election.
The very integrity of Alaska’s process for electing governors is at issue.