Former Alaska Sen. Mark Begich plans to vote for independent candidate Margaret Stock in the U.S. Senate race, passing over his own party's nominee, Democrat Ray Metcalfe.
"I'm going to support Margaret Stock," Begich told KTUU. Begich, elected in 2009 and ousted in a contentious race against Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2014, cited Stock's independent status and military background.
Begich told KTUU that Metcalfe isn't really campaigning, and has failed to get out and "earn the votes" of Alaskans.
The move is not entirely surprising, given a growing rift between Democratic state party officials and Metcalfe. And there's no love lost between Begich and Metcalfe. Metcalfe has long made accusations of corruption in Begich's dealings as mayor of Anchorage and in the Senate.
Metcalfe won the Democratic nomination in the August primary with 15,228 votes, against Edgar Blatchford, who drew 10,090 votes. Turnout in the primary was low — just over 17 percent of registered voters participated.
The state has more than 77,000 voters registered as Democrats. Most Alaskans are registered as undeclared or nonpartisan.
Metcalfe didn't mince words in response to Begich's announcement. "If Mark Begich offered me his endorsement, I wouldn't take it. He's a crook," Metcalfe told KTUU.
Begich's decision comes following a recent vote to endorse Stock by Alaska's Interior Democrats. The state party rules prevent elected party officials from campaigning against a party nominee, or endorsing an official from another party.
Because Stock is an independent, and doesn't belong to any political party, Democratic officials have said they are free to endorse her and campaign on her behalf, as long as they remain mum about their positions on Metcalfe.