Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:
Oct. 20, 2018
Ketchikan Daily News: Best for Alaska
It should be about what’s best for Alaska.
This week proved - once again - that anything can happen in Alaska politics, and not just once in less than a week, but twice.
It did similarly in 2014 and 1990, too.
The week began with Gov. Bill Walker announcing the resignation of now-former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. Just three weeks before the Nov. 6 statewide election, Mallott did what’s best for Alaska and resigned because on Sunday he had made inappropriate comments to a woman who has chosen not to be identified. Walker is complying with her request.
Then on Friday, Walker, who remained in a three-way race to retain the Governor’s House, suspended his campaign and threw his support to Democrat and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, explaining that his view of the future for the state not only aligned more with Begich than Republican challenger and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, but he feared for the state with what looked like at the time an impending Dunleavy administration.
Walker told an Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage that his decision is about what’s best Alaska and not what’s best for himself. That has been Walker’s view since he set out on the campaign trail more than four years ago.
Surprises in Alaska’s gubernatorial races aren’t new. In 2014, Walker, a Republican at the time, turned independent, and Mallott, who was the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate, teamed up and overpowered then-incumbent Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Republicans.
Back in 1990, Walker Hickel, who had previously served as governor from 1966 to 1969, upset the gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat Tony Knowles and Republican Arliss Sturgulewski by joining the race after the primary election. Hickel filed as the candidate for the Alaska Independence Party, which had set aside John Lindauer to create the vacancy on the ticket, and turned the next six weeks into a successful campaign. Jack Coghill served as his lieutenant governor.
Both in 2014 and 1990, the eventual winners declared they were doing what was best for Alaska.
As Walker left the AFN stage, obviously emotional and clearly still reeling from the loss of Mallott, whom Walker had declared a soulmate, Dunleavy led in the polls. As of Oct. 14, Dunleavy polled at 43 percent compared to Walker and Begich with about 26 percent each, according to Alaska Survey Research.
New polls will be forthcoming with Walker’s announcement, and the lead might have changed for Dunleavy. Earlier polls had shown him at 46 percent. Walker’s and Begich’s poll numbers combined give Dunleavy’s opposition 52 percent.
The AFN has declared it will get out the vote for Begich, but Democrats are far fewer than Republicans in Alaska. It’s the unaffiliated voters with an Alaska-size independence, who will decide on the state’s next chief executive.
But, anything can happen yet with a little over two weeks to go to Election Day. Much has happened this week.
When all is said and done, however, the outcome should be what’s best for Alaska. Alaskans will decide that.
Oct. 21, 2018
Anchorage Daily News: Alaskans have election whiplash. But campaign shakeups in the Last Frontier are the rule, not the exception.
On Friday afternoon, Gov. Bill Walker shocked attendees at the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention by announcing he would suspend his campaign for re-election and instead support Mark Begich against Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy. The move capped a wild week that had already seen the surprise resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott for “inappropriate comments” made to an unidentified woman. Mallott was replaced, in his office and as Walker’s running mate, by Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson.
There’s no question that the effect on the governor’s race is momentous. Less than three weeks remain before the election. Ballots with Walker and Mallott’s names on them have already been printed, and about 1,000 absentee ballots have already been returned.
But in grappling with the most recent shakeup, we may be tempted to forget that in Alaska elections, there’s no such thing as normal. Here’s an incomplete rundown of some of Alaska’s most notorious turnabouts from elections past:
1. The Unity Ticket
Ironically, Gov. Walker was himself the beneficiary of an untenable three-way race in 2014. Having withdrawn from the Republican primary to run as an independent, Walker was a long shot to prevail and was viewed by many as a spoiler who would ensure then-Gov. Sean Parnell would coast to an easy re-election - until he and Democratic candidate Mallott joined forces to create what they called the “Unity Ticket” and won a tight race influenced by a National Guard scandal that continues to have repercussions today. Although he emerged victorious on Election Day, Walker’s win didn’t sit well with Republicans in the Legislature, who often stymied his efforts to move bills and advance policy initiatives.
2. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in win
Alaska’s senior U.S. senator has always been too close to the middle of the road for those in the Republican Party’s right wing, and her campaign for a second full term came to a screeching, though temporary, halt in 2010 when hard-right populist Joe Miller defeated her in the primary. Undeterred, Murkowski embarked on a near-unprecedented write-in campaign (the only successful previous effort was in 1954, by South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond). After Miller’s campaign was bogged down by allegations of misuse of his office as a Fairbanks borough attorney and the detainment of an editor for the Alaska Dispatch who was covering a town hall event, Murkowski won by four percent.
3. Ted Stevens’ trial
The 2008 U.S. Senate race in Alaska was bizarre from the outset, as Alaska political giant Sen. Ted Stevens ran his campaign while on trial for making false statements related to improper gifts from oil field services company owner Bill Allen. Under other circumstances, Stevens would have coasted to an easy victory. But Oct. 27 of that year provided the most consequential “October Surprise” in Alaska history, when a federal jury found Sen. Stevens guilty on all seven counts. A neck-and-neck result between Stevens and Mark Begich was too close to call on Election Day, but Begich prevailed weeks later after absentee and questioned ballots were counted. The verdicts in the case were thrown out in April 2009 after misconduct by prosecutors came to light, but Stevens’ political career was over. He died in a plane crash a year later.
4. The wild 1998 governor’s race
Prior to this year, the governor’s race that saw the most late-stage hijinks was unquestionably in 1998, when Republican John Lindauer faced Democrat Tony Knowles. Lindauer’s campaign was rocked by revelations that his campaign had been largely financed by his wife, and - according to Republican Party leaders - “undermined the party’s credibility” by not being transparent about the source of the money. In late October, Republicans pulled their support from Lindauer and endorsed write-in candidate Robin Taylor. In the end, Taylor and Lindauer split the Republican vote nearly evenly and Republican Moderate candidate Ray Metcalfe siphoned off another 6 percent, and Tony Knowles cruised to an easy win.
5. Hickel and the Alaska Independence Party
In 1990, Lindauer was involved in another of Alaska’s biggest electoral shake-ups when he vacated his place as the Alaskan Independence Party nominee to clear the way for Wally Hickel, a late entry after the Republican primary was won by moderate Arliss Sturgulewski. To make matters even more dramatic, Sturgulewski’s running mate Jack Coghill jumped ship to join Hickel’s ticket on Sept. 20. Sturgulewski’s campaign never recovered, and for the first time, a third-party candidate won the Alaska governor’s race. That feat wouldn’t be repeated until Walker’s independent run in 2014.
Alaska is a wild place, and so are its politics. There’s no guarantee that this year’s electoral roller coaster is over, but the drama in the governor’s race to this point has earned it a place in the pantheon of campaign upsets that have made campaigns in the Last Frontier so unpredictable. Candidate Dunleavy’s final words in Friday’s AFN candidate forum were “don’t be surprised if there are more surprises along the way” - so buckle up, this year’s drama might not be over yet.
Oct. 21, 2018
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Dunleavy should attend chamber forum
Gubernatorial front-runner Mike Dunleavy missed the Kodiak fisheries debate Oct. 15, after saying he’d be there. Let’s hope he does not miss the Alaska Chamber of Commerce’s forum Wednesday at the Westmark Hotel.
Realistically, we should not be worried. It would be ludicrous for him to miss it when you consider the influence of that crowd. But, then again, Mr. Dunleavy did skip the Alaska Municipal League’s candidate forum in Healy, too. He called 15 minutes prior to its start to announce he would not be able to attend that forum. He was also absent from the NAACP-hosted forum in September in Anchorage.
Missing a candidate forum does not reflect well on any candidate.
Ever since Alaskans learned there would be a three-way race, many people have been predicting independent Gov. Bill Walker and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, will split the moderate and progressive vote - thus handing Mr. Dunleavy the office on a silver platter. So perhaps Mr. Dunleavy believed he could coast into the governor’s office.
On Friday, Gov. Walker bowed out of the race during a speech at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. This announcement came after Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s abrupt resignation last week because of inappropriate comments he made to a woman. He is supporting Mr. Begich, and you can bet many of his supporters are abandoning ship and swimming toward Mr. Begich.
This election may be more competitive than originally believed.
Before ending his campaign, Gov. Walker was the only candidate to present a solid fiscal plan, which includes limiting the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend so the fund’s earnings can be used to support the state’s annual operating budget. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but a $1,600 dividend is better than nothing.
The Daily News-Miner has encouraged the candidates to explain in detail their fiscal plans if those plans include restoring the dividend to its full amount. We have been skeptical of these promises of restoring a full dividend.
Of course, Wednesday’s candidate forum in Fairbanks would be an opportunity for each candidate to make a strong appearance and prove us wrong.
Frankly, we’re tired of the nebulous remarks about limiting government and making more cuts.
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