Lt. Governor Byron Mallott was in Sitka on Monday, the day before the general election, to meet with the Tribe and Sitka’s new mayor Matt Hunter — but also to visit with election officials. The lieutenant governor is the head of the Division of Elections, and — despite national concerns about potential problems at the polls — he’s anticipating a smooth and orderly election.
Byron Mallot is from Yakutat, so a shoutout — and a small challenge — are very much in order.
“Sitka may be having some Yakutat weather, but that shouldn’t keep tough Sitkans from getting out and voting, or tough people in Yakutat, or any other communities that KCAW serves.”
Mallott says Alaska’s paper ballot system is secure and reliable. While he won’t call it a model for the rest of the country, he believes voting works remarkably well here.
“And we’ve done a lot to make it more efficient, and we have a long way to go. But the notion of every Alaskan no matter where they are situated or how they are situated, who is eligible to vote, being able to do that in a safe, timely, and available way is fundamental to our democracy.”
All 40 seats in Alaska’s House of Representatives are up for grabs. Mallott travels pretty widely in the state — he’s racked up 280,000 Alaska Air Miles in just two years — and he says that overwhelmingly residents understand that the state is in financial trouble.
“My sense is that Alaskans do understand the gravity of our fiscal crisis. I think that the fact that in the primary election six incumbents lost their seats, who were in the majority that had not acted on a fiscal plan was no accident.”
Mallott says that he’s an optimist. A lifelong Alaskan, he believes that residents ultimately do the right thing here. Governor Bill Walker took heat for vetoing half of the Permanent Fund Dividend this year. Mallott knows that hurts in rural communities like his hometown of Yakutat.
But he also thinks that rural residents understand that there is a greater good to be had, by sacrificing now.
“If this were an issue that the Native community, the rural community, felt was a fiscal and moral outrage, AFN would have acted. I believe that it was done because the rural and Native community knows — and they have been very vocal in saying that — we need that balance, we need to resolve the fiscal crisis, we all need to be part of it. But we also, more than anything else, need to be able to have a sustainable fiscal future that allows us to make the investments that grow our regions and our state, and provide education for our children, and so forth. They get it.”
Governor Walker will undergo surgery for prostate cancer in December. Mallott says the cancer was caught early, and the prognosis for a full recovery is good. While he’ll be in charge for the few hours that the governor is under anesthetic, Mallott is looking forward to handing the reins back after the procedure.
“He is expecting to be 100-percent governor. I want him to be 100-percent governor. I’ve never worked with a man like him. What you see is what you get, both in the most intimate of discussions or in public. An incredibly hard worker. Upbeat, positive, and in terms of the mental strength you need to deal with this kind of circumstance, I can’t think of a more ideal and strong person.”
After his short trip to Sitka, Mallott returned to Juneau to watch election returns from across the country on Tuesday.