An open letter to Bill Walker from a friend who didn't vote for him

Congratulations on being elected as the 13th governor of Alaska. What your victory, a narrow one by Alaska standards, tells us about politics in our state is yet to be determined. What the quality of your governorship will be, and how you will be remembered after you leave office, are two things that are completely within your control. There is a blank canvas before you. Although you cannot do it alone, in a sense you will chart our own course and create your own legacy.

In all honesty, you did not receive my vote. But, as governor-elect you now have my best wishes and my fervent prayers. As the saying goes, "elections are about choosing sides, but inaugurations are about closing ranks." My advice to you, Mr. Governor, for what it is worth, is "Be true to who you are. Be yourself."

Winston Churchill said that "no part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections." I think what Churchill meant was that any wise elected official looks closely back over his shoulder and takes measure -- measure of why some chose to support him and even greater measure of why some chose to oppose him. Whether the knowledge gained through this exercise impacts how he governs will depend upon the circumstances. But regardless, that knowledge will be invaluable as he goes forward.

So what is there to learn from this election? Well, let's start by putting the end result in perspective. Your victory is real, but it was not a landslide. No mandate is to be found in the vote tallies. This was the fourth-closest gubernatorial election in Alaska's history. Only Hickel in 1966 (a margin of 1,080 votes, or 1.6%), Hammond in 1974 (221 votes, or .22%), and Knowles in 1994 (583 votes, or .3%), won the governorship by smaller margins. This fact counsels in favor of swallowing a good dose of humility. But humility is by no means equivalent to timidity. Each of those men were twice elected to Alaska's highest office.

What put you over the top? There are multiple things that contributed to your victory. But, I suggest that you take note of this. One of the two major political parties in this state, destined for an unremarkable and barely noticeable "also ran" third-place finish, dropped its ticket and subordinated itself to you. True enough, its action gave you the lift you needed to clear the hurdle. But you should never forget that they latched onto your coattail, not the other way around. It was you at the top of the ticket and it will be you who assumes the Office of Governor. You are beholden to no one -- no person and no party.

Ask also why it was that more than 140,000 Alaskans did not vote for you. That's 11,000 more Alaskans than those who voted for you, and it's more than 51% of voters. Now, I will be the first to admit that trying to understand the collective mentality of the electorate is a mind-numbing exercise. As Churchill also said, "[t]he best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." But nonetheless, contemplation of this will be valuable to you as well.

Here also, there are multiple reasons for why these votes were cast. But, I suggest you take note of those Alaskans who might have supported you but for their concern that your ambition had possibly overtaken your convictions. The eyes of these voters are upon you. So, once again I say, "be true to who you are." Invest your labor toward reaping support where previously doubt was sown.

In closing I will leave you with this thought from Mark Twain. "The government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant." Never forget that the people of Alaska have honored you with this office and that you work for them. I wish you the best. I hope and pray for the best for Alaska.

Kevin G. Clarkson is an Anchorage attorney. He contributed to the Parnell re-election campaign.

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.