Independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has suspended his campaign for re-election and endorsed Democratic candidate Mark Begich.
Walker made the comments today at the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives shortly before the group’s forum for gubernatorial candidates. Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson, who had been appointed earlier this week after the shocking resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, stood at his side during the speech.
With tears in his voice, Walker made the announcement.
“Effective today, I am suspending my campaign for the re-election for governor,” he said to gasps. “With more time I believe Lt. Gov. Davidson and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election, but there are only 18 days remaining before election day. … In the time remaining, it has become clear that we cannot win in a three-way race.”
He his decision to drop out and endorse Begich was the best way to avoid the election of Republican Mike Dunleavy, whose right-wing politics Walker said risks the progress made under his administration like Medicaid expansion and significant improvement of relations between the state and Alaska Natives.
“At this point, Begich has a better chance,” he conceded.
“There are simply no words to express my deepest gratitude to the incomparable team of Alaskans who’ve worked in my administration,” he said, also thanking his campaign staff. “I also want to say thank you to my family and Donna, my first lady for life.”
Walker has faced incredible pressure this week to withdraw as many, us included, believed Mallott’s resignation would doom the campaign that was already facing tough chances come Nov. 6. Throughout the week, Walker said he would do what’s best for the state and that’s how he finished his remarks.
“Ultimately it’s not how long my team and I serve, it’s how well we serve the people and the state we love while we have the opportunity and honor to serve. We have served with integrity, courage, devotion and compassion. Never asking ourselves whether a decision was politically correct, but always, always, asking if it is right for Alaska,” he said. “It is the honor of my life to have served this great state. … Alaska before me.”
After he finished his speech, singers from the NANA region took the stage to sing in his honor and afterward many delegates to AFN from around Alaska spoke to thank Walker for his service.
The AFN membership also voted on the spot to accept Walker’s apology from the day before, where the governor apologized for the generational trauma the state has done to Alaska Natives.
When it finally came time for the gubernatorial forum, Republican Mike Dunleavy and Democrat Mark Begich took the stage as a third chair meant for Walker was rolled aside.