JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Gov. Bill Walker won’t run in the Democratic primary for governor if Democrat Mark Begich jumps into that race, Walker’s campaign said Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the campaign said Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott planned to enter the Democratic primary: Walker as an independent and Mallott as a Democrat.
However, in a statement Wednesday, the campaign said that if Begich decides to enter the Democratic primary “at the last minute,” Walker and Mallott will not run in the primary. Instead, they would bypass the primary and gather signatures to appear as independents on the November general election ballot.
Walker and Mallott “are not interested in a destructive primary, and they are absolutely committed to making sure that Alaskans have an independent choice on Nov. 6,” the campaign said.
The candidate filing deadline is Friday. So far, no Democrats have filed as candidates in the race.
Whether Begich, who formerly served in the U.S. Senate and as Anchorage mayor, runs for governor has been the subject of much speculation. He told supporters last year he was considering a run, but said he also loved the consulting work he started after leaving the Senate.
More recently he has taken to Twitter to speak out on policy issues, including support for expanded Medicaid and funding for Planned Parenthood, and at times jabs at state leaders and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, the Republican who defeated him in a hard-fought 2014 race.
But he had said little publicly about his thinking surrounding a potential run for governor. A Begich spokeswoman declined comment Wednesday on the Walker campaign’s statement.
Walker and Mallott received support from the Democratic party during their successful 2014 campaign. Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in joining forces with Mallott, a Democrat.
On the Republican side, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, businessman Scott Hawkins and state Rep. Mike Chenault are among the highest-profile candidates who’ve announced plans to seek their party’s nomination.
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