Alaska Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate withdraws

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska Libertarians say their party's U.S. Senate nominee, Thom Walker, has pulled out of the race, and they've selected a nominee to take his place as soon as state elections officials allow.

Walker made his decision known on a post to the Libertarian Party's Facebook page Wednesday, and the party's executive board met quickly to select Libertarian stalwart Mark Fish to replace him as the party's nominee. Fish had been endorsed by the party before the election as well.

Fish said Wednesday that his candidacy will give Alaskans a chance to vote for a candidate who will stand up against government intrusions on Alaskans' property rights.

"Our congressional delegation is not taking them to task for that. They're more focused on propping up federal spending in Alaska than ensuring Alaskans have rights to their land and their resources," Fish said.

The election of little-known Walker came as a surprise to many, especially state party leaders, and led to speculation that the last name he shared with Republican-turned-independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker might have led to the victory. As an independent candidate, Bill Walker did not appear on the August primary ballot.

Thom Walker, who shares no relation with Bill Walker, got 4.5 percent of the vote in the open primary, compared to 1.84 percent for Fish and 1.02 percent for Libertarian Scott Kohlhaas. Democrat Mark Begich drew 83.57 percent of the vote. Republicans ran in a separate closed primary.

Walker was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and party chair Michael Chambers said he is currently working north of the Brooks Range and only has contact through satellite telephone. Chambers has not talked to his party's nominee since last week's election, he said, and the Facebook post was the first notification from Walker since his win.

"He indicated that he felt that his job was in the way of running an active campaign, and that wasn't fair to the Alaska Libertarian Party, and because of that he wants to step aside," Chambers said.

By selecting Fish as its replacement nominee, the party made a move to end speculation that it might have interest in selecting a higher-profile candidate: Republican Joe Miller, who lost his own bid for the GOP nomination to former state attorney general Dan Sullivan.

"Joe Miller was not being considered as a Libertarian candidate," Chambers said. 

"We've heard it for two months in the national news and the local news; that was the conjecture," he said.

Kohlhaas said he'll support Fish's candidacy but absolutely did not want Miller to get the Libertarian nomination.

"That's why I ran -- to prevent that from happening," he said.

Libertarian and state elections officials will now have to work to formalize the candidate transition. Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said that for Walker to withdraw, he will need to take specific steps.

"A candidate's withdrawal must be done in writing over their signature," she said.

Chambers said that may be difficult, given Walker's remote location.

"It's a unique situation for a unique state," Chambers said, but he said he was confident that if the elections division could successfully handle a complicated write-in campaign in which Sen. Lisa Murkowski was re-elected, they could handle Walker's request to get off the ballot.

Contact Pat Forgey at pat@alaskadispatch.com.