Well, ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a real governor's race. On Monday, Alaska Democratic Party leaders voted 89-2 to support an independent ticket made of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. While Walker was a registered Republican, the Alaska Democratic Party is in such disarray that they have now put their hopes on electing a Republican governor.
Alaska Dispatch News Columnist Shannyn Moore likened waiting for their decision to "Alaska's version of watching for white smoke out of a chimney." After the vote was announced she tweeted, "Habemus Papam," the Latin phrase for announcing the choosing of a new pope – quite an interesting interpretation of the Democrats' abandoning their ticket and supporting a pro-life and anti-gay-marriage Republican candidate.
Liberal blogger Jeanne Devon posted on her Facebook page, "Walker-Mallott 2014! The vote is in and confirmed 88-2. We have a unity ticket for Governor/Lt. Governor. Gratitude for all those involved -- all four candidates, and those who voted. Let's get to work. Buh-bye, Captain Zero. The people are coming."
An hour before that post, Devon posted a list of Alaska leaders and their party affiliations. She continued with some commentary about how party labels are simply labels and ended with this: "If we are presented, as we may be, with a Unity ticket for Governor and Lt. Governor, can we not break our blue crayons and pout? Can we please bother to think things through, and recognize that the world we live in is not always exactly the one we want? Can we not pout, but instead roll up our sleeves? We will have a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time."
Ivan Moore floated the idea of a ticket featuring Bill Walker and Bill Wielechowski on social media last year. This never happened and Byron Mallott eventually became the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate.
In July, an Ivan Moore Research Poll showed Parnell leading the group of gubernatorial candidates with 42 percent. Walker came in at 29 percent and Mallott trailed with only 16 percent. The same poll with Mallott removed from the equation showed Walker and Parnell in a statistical dead heat with Parnell at 46 percent and Walker with 45 percent.
The excitement for Byron Mallott as a candidate never materialized. Some thought that when Sen. Hollis French won the primary for the lieutenant governor spot that he would add the spark needed in the ticket. While French is definitely an energetic running mate, the spark never led to a rise in the numbers.
Rumors started flying about Mallott possibly joining Walker, a Republican running as an independent candidate. Polling made it pretty clear that a three-way race would only help Parnell.
Walker is certainly considered an outsider in Republican circles, but he cannot be described as anything other than a conservative. He ran for governor in 2010 in a primary that pitted him against Ralph Samuels and Parnell, who was also an incumbent at the time.
Walker's hard-hat-wearing campaign promising an "All-Alaska Pipeline" shows his status as a card-carrying member of the pro-development crowd. He has also been vocal about being pro-life and anti-gay marriage.
In an interview with the Juneau Empire, Walker said, when being asked about why he's running as an independent, "I think the social issues, I'm very conservative in that regard. That's why I'm a Republican, but the social issues are not the platform that I'm running on. I'm running on economic development, fiscal stability, low-cost energy, jobs, education — those issues are what brought me into the race."
In the same interview, Walker said, "I'm not a person who checks my faith at the door; I'll put it that way. I am a Christian. My Christian values are important to me in my daily life and decisions. I certainly follow the Constitution and the case law that has been established, but I'm not going to step away from who I am."
Alaska Family Action, a Christian organization with a very socially conservative agenda and certainly not a favorite of the left, lists Bill Walker as one of the Alaskans that have held fundraisers for their ministry.
Bill Walker also supported a ballot measure to require teens to notify their parents before obtaining an abortion. He even used his campaign office to help collect signatures for the measure.
So there you have it, Alaska: two Republican candidates for governor, one supported by the Republican Party of Alaska and one supported by the Alaska Democratic Party. Although Walker has changed the letter following his name from an R to an "i," he shares almost none of the values of the Alaska Democrats.
Alaska liberals have abandoned some of their principles to support a Republican simply so they can defeat Gov. Parnell. The question is, when one Republican candidate wins over the other, what will Alaska liberals have really won?
Michael Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, volunteered and studied in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.