Local News

Walker says he’ll be an independent governor

Bill Walker, independent candidate for governor, poses in Raven Radio's record library.

Bill Walker, independent candidate for governor, poses in Raven Radio’s record library. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Candidate for governor Bill Walker is a long-time Republican. He challenged Sean Parnell in the 2010 party primary, and he’s running again.

But this time, he’s an independent candidate. He stopped in Sitka last week, where he talked about his campaign and some Southeast issues.

The decision to run as a non-partisan independent means Bill Walker skips next year’s GOP primary. It puts him on the 2014 general-election ballot, along with top Democratic and Republican contenders, plus other party or independent candidates.

The Former Valdez mayor says that will give him more visibility … and more freedom.

“Initially, when I filed, they said, ‘You can’t say that in the Republican primary, you can’t say that in the Republican primary.’ Finally, after about three or four of those, I said, ‘You know what? I need to be an independent.’ I don’t want to be limited by one side of one side of the aisle or another side of the aisle. I just want to be limited by what’s best for Alaska,” he says.

Walker is critical of incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, especially his successful effort to lower oil taxes in hopes of spurring more production.

“Anytime we are shifting $40 billion of wealth across the table to Exxon, BP and Conoco-Phillips and asking for nothing in return, that’s horrific,” he says.

Walker says a better approach would be incentives to develop certain fields. He says existing fields, that are already producing oil, don’t need that.

Walker shares other candidates’ concerns about federal ownership of Alaska lands. He says he’d approach Tongass National Forest development, including logging, by engaging rather than ignoring.

“Well, one thing I’d do is I would meet with the president when he came to Alaska,” he says.

Governor Parnell did not meet with Barack Obama during a visit to Anchorage about four years ago.

“Whether you agree with somebody or not, you’ve got to sit down with them. He’s still the president of the United States, and they control 62 percent of our land mass in Alaska,” he says.

Walker says he supports mining, logging and other resource development. But he shares many Alaskans’ concerns about preserving habitat.

“The mine that’s proposed at Pebble, if it is going to threaten the fish, I will be a defender and default to the fish. On the timber issue, I’ve got to believe there’s a compromise in there somewhere. That timber harvesting can be done in such a way that it is not a detriment to the fish,” he says.

The independent gubernatorial candidate says he supports keeping the capital in Juneau. He also says he’s concerned about capital creep, with many state jobs moving to Anchorage.

“I have no desire to shift the balance of power of our state to a location that’s not the capital. ”

But would he require most of his commissioners to be based in Juneau?

“I’m not sure I’m going to require that. I think I’d prefer that. What I don’t want to do is take a position that would preclude someone that I think would be excellent for the Department of Natural Resources or the commissioner of revenue by dictating their location,” he says.

Walker says he understands the importance of the Alaska Marine Highway System, which brought traffic to a hotel he owned in Valdez.

He says he would try to maintain the current level of service, which costs more and more each year.

“I think there’s some things that we can do operationally from a fuel standpoint. Continuing to burn lots of diesel may not be the best option. There may be some other options available that are being used elsewhere in the world,” he says.

If elected, he says he would continue state support of hydropower development. He also wants to pursue new energy sources, such as natural gas barged to island communities.

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