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Bill Walker: Why Byron Mallott and I have joined forces on one ticket

Bill Walker
OPINION: Independent candidate for governor Bill Walker says that he and running mate Byron Mallott aim to unite Alaskans and serve no special interest. Pictured: Mallott and Walker make the announcement. Tara Young / Alaska Dispatch News

On Nov. 8, 1955, Bob Bartlett addressed the Alaska Constitutional Convention in a speech titled, “Meeting the Challenge.” In asking the delegates to set aside their partisan concerns, he recognized the divergent interests and backgrounds that had assembled for the great task. Bartlett aptly stated: “Here, in this element of compromise, is the very essence of the democratic process.”

Gov. Wally Hickel later reflected, “During the early days of Alaska, it wasn’t them and us. It was all of us.”

As Alaskans we are strong when statesmanship trumps partisanship. We have proven this in times that are personal to me -- Alaska Statehood, the 1964 earthquake, the devastating floods. When we pull together, we do not dilute our ideals, we don’t set aside our values – we come together for the greater good, and together, we are strong.

Bartlett also quoted Benjamin Franklin’s comments on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, “When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It ... astonishes me to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does ... Thus I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have of its errors I sacrifice to the public good.”

So Byron Mallott, Hollis French, Craig Fleener and I rise and to meet the challenge. The challenge before us is the economy, declining oil throughput, unprecedented deficit spending, exorbitant energy prices and the health, safety and well-being of our people.

At stake is our children’s future. 

We are in a crisis. 

When I decided to run for governor as an independent in August 2013, I recognized that my ideals and vision for this state could not be pigeon-holed into one party or another. I am an Alaskan first, and that is how I’ve oriented this campaign, my life, and my career.

In recent months, it has become apparent that a three-way race would not result in the change that Alaska desperately needs. Following the primary election, we heard from Alaskans from every reach of the state and from every political background asking for my campaign to join with Byron Mallott’s campaign “for the good of the state."

Byron and I have had many long talks. Through those conversations and our numerous encounters on the campaign trail I have learned that despite our differences we are united in our commitment to serve Alaska first. This is not about political gain, cementing future runs for higher office, notoriety, or pride. As one Alaska voter wrote in a recent email, “This is NOT about political might, not about Democrats or Republicans, nor personal egos. This IS about what is best for the people of the state of Alaska.”

In recognizing that, a debt of gratitude to our running mates, Craig Fleener and Hollis French, is owed. These are two dedicated, highly qualified Alaskans selflessly advancing a unity ticket for the greater good of all Alaskans.

Byron Mallott and I are rising above partisan politics to form the independent team of Walker-Mallott for governor and lieutenant governor. This is not an easy choice, but a necessary choice. We realize that we do not hold an identical set of beliefs. But what is critical is that at this point in Alaska’s history, and looking forward to our future, we must have an administration that is not beholden to any special interest other than Alaska’s interests. Our administration will be a guide so that all Alaskans will see the progress that occurs when we focus on what unites rather than what divides us.

This campaign is about bringing us together around shared values and building the kind of Alaska that all Alaskans will be proud to call home. For true Alaskans, our heritage is much more than simply Republican or Democrat or independent – our history is one of uniting to overcome even the greatest of odds, and our greatest achievements come when we put Alaska first.

On this occasion, I will give the last word to my friend and mentor, Wally Hickel. I was with him when he spoke these words before the Alaska State Legislature: "And let us be sure that those who come after us will say of us, that we did everything that could be done. We finished the race. We kept Alaska strong. We kept the faith and put Alaska First. God bless you, and God bless Alaska.”

Bill Walker is an independent candidate for governor. On Tuesday he and Byron Mallott, the former Democratic candidate for governor, announced that they were joining forces on one ticket, with Mallott running for lieutenant governor. 

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com