Gov. Walker finally sounds off on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

Gov. Bill Walker delivers his annual State of the State address to the Legislature on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo by the governor's press office)

The leading challengers to independent Gov. Bill Walker were all quick to sound off on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh earlier this week. While the two leading Republicans praised the pick and the lone Democrat raised alarms, Walker was quiet.

Today, the governor issued a statement on Kavanaugh, but stopped short of weighing in on his confirmation by noting that as governor he had “limited influence over the Supreme Court confirmation process.”

Instead, Walker’s statement focused in on questions raised by Democratic candidate Mark Begich about the fate of abortion rights under the reworked court. Begich, who’s the lone outspoken supporter of abortion rights in the race, said his governorship would help backstop any slide ushered in under a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

It put Walker in a tricky spot as a pro-life governor who’ll also need the support of progressives in his re-election.

Walker’s statement focuses in on the bipartisanship of his administration with Democratic Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

“I am pro-life, Byron is pro-choice. Our team is built around the idea that leaders with diverging personal beliefs can come together to do what’s right for Alaska,” he wrote in a statement tweeted out this morning. “We work across the aisle for solutions to our shared challenges. We will continue to be skeptical of legislation that divides Alaskans across ideological lines.”

“Our administration has worked tirelessly to expand and defend access to health care for all Alaskans,” he said. “These things will not change regardless of who is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Walker did unilaterally expand Medicaid coverage in Alaska, extending the program to tens of thousands of poor Alaskans, but his record isn’t entirely sterling when it comes to abortion rights.

His administration has sought to defend a 2013 law that would limit Medicaid funding for abortions to cases where it’s medically necessary as defined by a list of ailments approved by the Alaska Legislature, arguing the case to the Alaska Supreme Court where the matter is still being reviewed. The challenged law was approved before Walker was elected, and the Alaska Legislature has yet to send him any abortion-related legislation during his administration.

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