Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott greets supporter Eric Jordan in Sitka on primary day, August 19, 2014. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott greets supporter Eric Jordan in Sitka on primary day, August 19, 2014. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

In a summer campaign season dominated by the U.S. Senate race, one crucial political contest has been flying under the radar: the campaign for Governor. But now, the governor’s race has muscled its way onto the front page.

News broke over the weekend that Democratic candidate Byron Mallott may be combining his campaign with that of Independent Bill Walker. The two candidates were reported to be discussing a unity ticket, in an effort to unseat incumbent Republican Governor Sean Parnell.

Tuesday (9-2-14) is the deadline for changes to the general election ballot.

Mallott was in Sitka recently — he spent Primary Day, August 19th, in town. Speaking with KCAW during his visit, he argued that the Parnell administration has limited Alaskans’ voice in decisions on the state’s natural resources, and said that voters face a clear decision this fall.

“The single most important issue in this election is the kind of leadership that Alaskans want in their governor going forward,” he said. “A governor who will clearly articulate what is in Alaskans’ interest after listening and heeding and working with Alaskans across the spectrum, versus a governor who has been closely identified with the oil industry. I think it’s a very clear choice about the kind of leadership that is appropriate for the state.”

Mallott said that his top issues are fully funding public education and dealing with the high cost of energy in rural Alaska — and the high cost of living generally.

During his visit, Mallott called Bill Walker a friend, but argued that Walker, though running as an Independent, remains too conservative. He told KCAW that the the two have strong differences on “social views and values.”

KCAW: When you say “social views and values,” what are you thinking of specifically?  

Mallott: His views on same-sex marriage, his views on abortion, you know, he is socially a conservative Republican. I have no problem with that. I’ve worked with many, many kinds, I can work closely with Bill Walker. We both have significant differences from Governor Parnell. But in the end, Bill Walker is still a Republican, and a conservative Republican.    

Walker ran against Sean Parnell in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010.

During his visit to Sitka, Mallott met with the mayor and city administrator, as well as executives at SEARHC and representatives of the Sitka Tribe. He was supposed to end his day by meeting with volunteers at the Alaska Democratic Party’s field office in downtown Sitka — but nobody showed up.

Reached by phone, Mallott’s campaign manager, Mary Halloran, said the event wasn’t organized by the campaign — it was hosted by the Alaska Democratic Party’s local field organizer — and wasn’t an indication of the campaign’s strength in Sitka, or Southeast.

“We’re sure that the support in Sitka is very strong,” she said. “We know it is.”

Mallott, who is originally from Yakutat, has served as Mayor of both Yakutat and Juneau and as CEO of Sealaska, the regional native corporation.

Mallot’s strong ties to Southeast may have given him the upper hand in primary voting here. In Sitka, Mallott outpaced Parnell  688 votes to 465, although the tallies aren’t directly comparable because the two candidates were on separate ballots.

Independent Bill Walker was not on the primary ballot.