Governor won't attend candidate forums during legislative session

Lisa Demer

Gov. Sean Parnell's Democratic challenger for governor on Wednesday called him out for not appearing at yet another candidate forum.

Byron Mallott, the Democratic candidate, and Bill Walker, a Republican running as an independent, both appeared at the Alaska Native Village CEO Association forum Wednesday. They have appeared at prior forums of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference and the AFL-CIO.

In a written statement after the event, Mallott chided Parnell, a Republican, "for his repeated avoidance of these public forums." The statement was headlined "Alaskans Deserve Open Public Debate."

Parnell's campaign manager, Jerry Gallagher, said Wednesday the governor is not attending any candidate forums or debates until the legislative session ends and that there will be plenty before the primary and the general election.

"The governor's priority is the legislative session and he is focused on gas pipeline, education, the unfunded pension liability and other issues important to Alaskans," Gallagher said in an email Tuesday when first asked why the governor wasn't planning to attend.

In 2010, the governor participated in more than a dozen candidate debates before the primary election and a number more before the general election, Gallagher said.

"There's going to be good discussion and lots of opportunity for people to come to the debates and listen to them," he said.

However, Parnell didn't concentrate on the Legislature Wednesday. Instead, he flew with chief of staff Mike Nizich on a state plane to Fairbanks, said his spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow. He met with the school superintendent and teachers, toured an Alaska Railroad yard to see new pipe and drilling materials bound for the North Slope and spoke briefly at a luncheon of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, though he wasn't the scheduled speaker. He also met with the editorial board of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Leighow said.

At least twice last month, he was in Anchorage for a campaign fundraiser. Gallagher said they were timed for a Monday and a Friday and that Parnell has had few fundraisers during the legislative session.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.


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