7:17 p.m. This post has been updated with additional information on what constituted “inappropriate comments.”
5:20 p.m. This post has been updated with comments by Mike Dunleavy, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Berta Gardner and the Division of Elections.
3:27 p.m. This post has been updated to include scant details from the governor’s news conference and a statement from the Walker campaign.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has abruptly resigned from his office, just three weeks before he and Independent Gov. Bill Walker are set to appear on this year’s ballot.
A news release put out by the governor’s office cites “inappropriate comments” made by the Democrat as the reasoning behind the resignation, and a letter by Mallott says he placed another person “in a position of vulnerability.”
“I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt,” he wrote. “I also seek healing for my family and for my staff, my friends and those who have placed their faith in me and have been let down my behavior.”
There was initially no additional details on the events or comments, but one source said it was serious enough to warrant the immediate resignation of the lieutenant governor.
Later, the governor’s office elaborated to say it was an “inappropriate overture to a woman” that occurred sometime on Sunday.
Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Val Davidson, who was made the successor for the lieutenant governor by the Legislature earlier this year, has already been sworn in.
Walker and Davidson appeared at a news conference at 3 p.m., but essentially provided no additional details beyond what was already in the news release and declined to answer reporters’ questions.
“Alaskans deserve the highest standard of conduct by their officials, and while I’m deeply saddened by the resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, I’m also profoundly disappointed in his conduct,” Davidson said. “Respect for women and respect for all Alaskans is our responsibility, and I stand ready to serve as your lieutenant governor.”
Ballots have already been printed for the Nov. 6 election, meaning Mallott’s name will appear on the ballot. Still, the campaign announced Mallott has withdrawn from involvement in the campaign and that Davidson would assume the role of lieutenant governor if the ticket somehow prevails.
“Byron’s resignation also applies to the campaign,” Walker said in a statement. “Though he cannot remove his name from the ballot, he will not accept the position of lieutenant governor if elected. Val Davidson will be sworn in as lieutenant governor and will also assume this role on the campaign. We hold everyone on our team to a high standard in all of their words and actions. This campaign and the stakes of this election are greater than any one person.”
Division of Elections:
The lieutenant governor’s main role is to head the Division of Elections. The agency released a statement explaining that Mallott cannot be removed from the Nov. 6 ballot. If Walker wins re-election, he would be able to appoint a lieutenant governor to the position. Indications are that newly appointed Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson would get the job.
Senate President Berta Gardner had this to say: “I am truly disappointed by the event relating to the Lt. Governor. As elected public officials, we must maintain public trust and uphold integrity. I send my condolences to the victim of this event and the family members of Lt. Governor Mallott who are impacted,” she said in a prepared statement. “Valerie Davidson, who has been sworn in as Lt. Governor, has my full confidence. I have known Valerie professionally and personally and know that she will carry out her duties as Lt. Governor with dignity and professionalism. She brings a wealth of Alaska knowledge to the position.”
This is a developing story.
A sad situation. That said, Walker surely has considered his own next steps. This may have wounded his campaign so deeply that going forward would only be as a spoiler that will leave Alaska with Dumleavy. Begich should consider Walker as Chair of the Alaska LNG Development Corporation, as Walker has progressed the project further along then anyone before him. In another shift, Debra Call should consider standing aside for Valerie Davidson as Lt. Gov., or at the very least continued as DHSS Commissioner in a Begich administration.