Alaska Governor Bill Walker suspended his re-election campaign today and threw his support behind Democrat Mark Begich.
“Every decision I made as your governor, I have made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska. With that said, effective today, I am suspending my campaign (gasps) for the re-election as governor,” Walker said while onstage at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.
Walker made the decision after talking with many Alaskans about whether he or Begich had a better chance against Dunleavy.
“The determination was made that at this point, Begich has the better odds,” he said.
Walker also expressed concern about the potential reversal of the Medicaid expansion by Dunleavy, whose “campaign record and rhetoric indicates that he will eliminate Medicaid expansion that has provided health care access to 44,000 Alaskans, created jobs, and brought $1 billion dollars of federal dollars into an economy that dearly needed it, decreasing statewide health care expenditures by 16 million dollars and kept hospitals from closing and saved lives,” Walker said.
Walker also predicted that Dunleavy would take away funding for the Alaska natural gas pipeline.
His decision comes three days following the resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott after making what Walker has described as an “inappropriate overture” to a female. The move could allow Begich to pull closer to Republican Mike Dunleavy in the race for governor. The names of Walker and Mallott must remain on the ballot. as the deadline to withdraw their names has passed. Libertarian Billy Toien also is running.
Walker is the nation’s only independent governor.
Walker begin his administration with broad support. A national poll in early 2016 listed him as among the country’s most popular governors. But that June, Walker’s decision to veto half of permanent fund dividend funding began a long decline in his approval rating. While the Legislature later voted for two PFD cuts, Walker took much of the blame. The reductions allowed the Permanent Fund to grow, which Walker argues will allow PFDs to continue into the future. The move also allowed the Legislature to pass a plan to pay for state government using permanent fund earnings. At the time, Walker said that without this, deep reductions in state government services would hurt Alaskans by harming schools, health care and the state’s economy. Political opponents, including Dunleavy, criticized Walker for the cuts and capitalized on the PFD cuts’ unpopularity.