Sen. Mike Dunleavy, the earliest entrant to the Republican race for governor who put a hold on his campaign to deal with health issues three months ago, is back in the race.
The Wasilla Republican made the announcement today, a move that has been rumored for a few weeks. Dunleavy suspended his campaign—despite seemingly coalescing support around the conservative—due to health issues that he says are “behind us.”
“Wanted to talk just briefly about the campaign and start out with the health issue I was dealing with,” he said in a Facebook Live video. “I’ve resolved the health issue with the doctors. We’ve got the health issue behind us. I’m feeling great and looking forward to hopping back into the campaign. I’m prepared to approach this campaign with energy and vigor, and I’m in it 100 percent.”
Dunleavy suspended his campaign in September to focus on treating atrial fibrillation, which causes heart palpitations and fatigue. In a prepared statement announcing the reactivitation of the campaign, Dunleavy elaborated that “This condition was not life threatening, but was a serious impediment to handling the rigors of the campaign trail.” He also received treatment for inflammation of the heart tissue that was causing fatigue.
“The outpouring of well wishes and prayers from Alaskans all across the state was truly humbling and inspiring,” he said in the statement.
The announcement comes the day after a group calling itself the Permanent Fund Defenders announced plans to try to pressure the Alaska Legislature into placing a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would enshrine the dividend in the constitution. Dunleavy is a member of the group, having introduced Senate Bill 1 to fully restore the 2016 dividend during the 2017 legislative session (which he announced at the infamous Fred Meyer news conference). Dunleavy departed the Senate Majority this year over the budget, which cut the dividend (a move that fellow Permanent Fund Defender and Wasilla Sen. Shelley Hughes followed later in the year).
Dunleavy’s entrance to the 2018 race for governor stands to tightly focus the race on the dividend. His opponents for the Republican primary, particularly Scott Hawkins, have taken softer stances than Dunleavy when it comes to the dividend, suggesting that it could be a tool to help fund state government. Dunleavy said his main platforms are a full dividend, public safety and a balanced budget.