AFL-CIO pivots from Walker to endorse Mark Begich

Alaska AFL-CIO president Vince Beltrami announces the group's endorsement of Democrat Mark Begich for governor on Oct. 22, 2018.

ANCHORAGE–When Alaska Gov. Bill Walker took the stage on Friday to announce he suspended his campaign he recognized the many thousands of backers of his campaign that included members of the Alaska AFL-CIO, which had endorsed Walker this summer.

Now, just three days after Walker announced he had suspended his campaign, the Alaska AFL-CIO announced today that it has endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.

“The decision was easy,” said Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami at the Anchorage office surrounded by members of organized labor.

Beltrami said preventing Republican Mike Dunleavy from taking office is a key priority for organized labor, but said that its support of Begich is “enthusiastic” even if they disagree on the salmon habitat initiative (Begich supports it while the AFL-CIO officially opposes it).

He said organized labor is concerned about Dunleavy’s budget, which he said relies on “smoke and mirrors math” to promise a full dividend while being vague about cuts.

The realignment of Alaska’s organized labor comes at a critical time with just two weeks until election day. As we’ve pointed out before, a lot of the money that would typically materialize in the form of independent expenditure groups has sat idle throughout much of the race.

In 2014, the AFL-CIO played a critical role in not only helping unify Walker’s independent campaign with former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s Democratic campaign but also brought to bear about a million in independent expenditure support in favor of the Walker ticket.

Though both Walker and Begich have enjoyed independent expenditure support so far, Beltrami said he expects more to come in. The pro-Walker independent expenditure group Unite Alaska for Walker-Mallott will pivot to Begich.

“I would definitely say that I’m aware a lot of the money has sat on the sidelines in a three-way race. So now that we’re down to a two-way race, I know I have a few affiliates that are interested in beefing up their contributions to our independent expenditure efforts,” he said. “I hear that there will be other efforts that will be coming to the already-established Begich independent expenditure, as well as to his campaign I’m sure.”

The pro-Begich spending will face a uphill battle against the pro-Dunleavy groups that have both a monetary advantage and a head start. Dunleavy for Alaska has crossed the $1 million mark for money raised (with a big chunk of it coming from Frances Dunleavy, the Republican’s brother) and there’s another $2.7 million in the hands Republican Governors Association proxy group  Families for Alaska’s Future.

Other takeaways

  • Asked if he was concerned if Dunleavy would turn Alaska into a right-to-work state, Beltrami said Dunleavy’s denied taking any position on this during personal conversations, but Beltrami said he wasn’t convinced Dunleavy would vote against it given the opportunity.
  • Beltrami’s long been a thorn in the side of the Alaska Republican Party, which is currently accusing him of spreading rumors about Republican candidate Dunleavy’s, um, personal life? When asked if he’s had a hand in fabricating and spreading the rumors, Beltrami denied such claims. “I don’t care one iota about what Mike Dunleavy’s proclivities are one way or another,” he said. He went on to say that Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock has hired a private investigator to go after these rumors, adding “Methinks the lady doth protest too much. What is Tuckerman Babcock hiding? Why is he interrogating private citizens to get to the bottom of this rumor if there’s nothing to it.”
  • When asked if the AFL-CIO had any interest in newly appointed Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson taking over the role on Begich’s ticket, giving Democrat Debra Call the boot, Beltrami said: “No,” before adding that Call’s name had appeared on the primary ballot.

There’s just two weeks until election day and early voting kicked off today.

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