Editor's note: The commentary below differs from the version that was first published here. An earlier draft was accidentally published in this space first. We regret the error.
Polling shows that Bill Walker is the only candidate who can beat the incumbent governor in November. As a result, a target has been slapped on Bill's back.
Democratic fundraising efforts claiming Bill is wealthy with money to burn and just another cookie-cutter Republican fooling Alaskans by running as an Independent paint a false portrait. Republican pollsters are also testing negative Walker messaging. Their questions suggest that Walker would expand Obamacare and restrict gun rights. Voters were asked if they would vote for Walker if they knew he were an attorney, "owned five houses," or quit as mayor after four months to take a higher paying job. They claim Bill supported the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010.
Bill came from humble honey-bucket, rural Alaska beginnings. He worked construction with his dad since his elementary years to keep food on the table. His family lost everything in the 1964 earthquake and at age 12, Bill became the post office janitor to help the family ward off bankruptcy. We both are among the first in our families to go to college and worked multiple jobs to put ourselves through school.
Bill was Mayor of Valdez when he was 27 years old. He served nearly two years before we left for law school. Since our first years of marriage, we started investing in real estate. We would borrow from my folks to buy a property for Bill to renovate, sell it, pay back my folks and make some profit. This is how we financed our law school educations.
We have built a comfortable life the old-fashioned, hard-work way. We currently own the family home Bill built for us in 1994 and several properties built in the 60's and 70's that Bill renovated. We have tenants who have stayed with us over 30 years, which says a lot about Bill's personal and management skills. We do not have a government- or company-funded retirement or health insurance.
Bill does not have established political parties transferring tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign or party donor lists as do his opponents. We are joining hundreds of Alaskans who have contributed to Bill by digging deep into our retirement funds to help fund campaign expenses. To us, this is an investment in Alaskans whom we hope through Bill's leadership will have the same opportunities we've enjoyed.
Yes, we are attorneys who have primarily represented Alaska's municipalities. So is the incumbent governor who primarily represented the oil industry in the oil spill litigation and as a lobbyist. Bill is a lifetime NRA member and has never supported restrictions on gun rights. Refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion in essence expands Obamacare by forcing many Alaskans into the exchanges. Bill would accept the Medicaid expansion, with the caveat of continued federal funding, because Alaskans' federal tax dollars pay for it, thousands of Alaskans would be aided and many new jobs created.
Governor Hickel in 2009 urged Bill to run for governor as an Independent but Bill ran as a Republican. Since then, Bill has grown increasingly dismayed at the partisan line-drawing stagnating our economic growth and polarizing Alaskans. While he is conservative, he does not engage in party activities and politics. His economic development strategies are not mandated by party platform. Running as an Independent is a far more natural fit for Bill. He is, and forever will be, an Alaskan first.
Bill did not "support" the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010. Ethan Berkowitz ran on an all-Alaska LNG export project platform while Parnell pushed the Canadian route. Bill specifically did not endorse Berkowitz but said he would accept a key energy advisor role Berkowitz offered. He did this after meeting with Parnell who showed no interest in pursuing an LNG export project which Bill has long advocated is key to Alaska's wellbeing and prosperity.
Bill is alarmed about the current $7 million per day spending deficit. His focus is to steer Alaska away from a looming economic cliff. When asked how he could accomplish things as an independent, Bill often says, "It's amazing what can get done when one does not care who gets the credit. I won't seek higher office, so I don't need the credit. I just want results."
When Bill announced his candidacy in 2009, rather than address current issues, Republicans sent an investigator to Valdez to examine Bill's actions as mayor and council member in the 1970's. Parnell recently posted a distorted photo of Bill on Facebook. But in that campaign and this, he will rarely face Bill in a debate.
I personally like Bill's opponents and their spouses and find it unfortunate that campaigns can't stick to the issues. No wonder good people decline to seek office. Thick skin, and for me, lots of prayers are required. Still, I wanted Bill's challengers to know that you are mischaracterizing a good man, and a truly great Alaskan.
Donna Walker is a mother, grandmother, attorney and business woman. She and independent candidate for governor, Bill Walker, will celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary in August.
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, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com .