By Lynda Lamp
On October 19, 2018, the incumbent Governor of Alaska, Bill Walker suspended his bid for re-election. In a heart-breaking speech, he endorsed one of his two opponents in what had been a 3-way race, Democrat Mark Begich.
The Backstory Started in 2014
There is a back story to this sudden development. In many ways, this political story starts four years ago when Alaska was at risk of electing Sean Parnell, a Republican, as Governor. In a creative political move, Walker, typically a Republican ran as an Independent in 2014. Byron Mallot, an Alaska Native, was the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate that year. Walker and Mallot joined forces, running Walker as Governor and Mallot as Lt. Governor. The Democratic party endorsed them as a ticket even though Walker ran as an Independent.
Fast forward to 2018. Some Alaskans were surprised when Mark Begich decided to run on the Democratic platform, making it a three-way race for Governor. Personally, I was furious at Begich, because, even though Alaska does seem ready to turn blue, creating a 3-way race didn’t bode well against the Republican candidate and their seemingly unlimited Super PACs millions. It was a worrisome move and left Alaska vulnerable in my eyes.
Then the Ground Shook
The week of October 15, 2018, something astounding and shocking happened. Byron Mallot, a man who I have met personally and held a deep respect for, said something inappropriate to someone. Everyone presumes it was a #metoo moment of some kind, but we do not know. The details have never been released to the public.
Mallot immediately resigned. Walker quickly filled the vacant Lt. Governor position with another Alaska Native, this time a woman. The November 6, 2018 ballots would be incorrect. If the Walter/Mallot ticket won, Mallot would of course decline. Walker would then appoint a Lt. Governor again.
The Next Shock Wave and Subsequent Awe
And then came Friday, October 19, 2018. Governor Bill Walker of Alaska suspended his re-election campaign, citing his concern about his ability to win, his interest that Alaska does not fall into the hands of Republicans and his desire foremost to do what would be best for Alaska. He concluded his speech with his endorsement of the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich.
There were tears of sadness. And there were more tears, many tears, the most important tears that filled the room were tears of joy; the swelling up of hearts witnessing a great man, a man of principle thrust into an untenable situation navigate the minefield before him with grace, wisdom and selfless love. All the mystery and confusion about the upcoming Governor election suddenly was gone. The wreck that lay before us, not just this week but since Begich joined the race, was gone. The lows and the highs in concert were a fantastic emotional roller coaster to witness and experience.
The Future Looks Bright
Alaska has been turning purple over the years, as Native rights have become more important to everyone, as renewable resources have become more important and as our statistics of domestic violence and addiction have spiked to some of the worse (or worst) in the Country. Alaska’s economy and Alaska’s future rests in the hands of these politicians. We now have profound clarity that we lacked just earlier the same day.
As occurred in 2014, a clear line has been drawn in the sand once again in Alaska. These announcements happened at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference and interfered mightily with the day’s schedule. Once they got back on track, they proceeded with the regularly scheduled debates between Mark Begich and Dunleavy for Governor and Don Young (R-Incumbent) and Alyse Galvin (I-Challenger) for the House of Representatives. Alaska is moving left.
Events on October 19, 2018, provided a real jolt in that direction.