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Gov. Walker will run as independent in Alaska Democratic primary

Gov. Bill Walker speaks at a press conference in November 2017. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Gov. Bill Walker will run as an independent in Alaska's Democratic primary election, his campaign said Friday.

"The governor and lieutenant governor sought a path that allowed them to run together and win without compromising what they both stand for," campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn wrote in a text.

"The Democratic Party has provided them a path to run as independents with no strings attached, and they've decided to take that path," Heckendorn wrote.

If Walker wins the Democratic primary, he will still be an independent in Alaska's general election, Heckendorn said.

In April, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that independent candidates can compete in partisan primary elections.

Running in the Democratic primary means Walker can get support from the party if he wins the primary. Before the recent ruling, unaffiliated candidates had to gather signatures to get their names on the ballot.

The Democratic primary also "looks like the most likely way" to ensure a two-way race, Heckendorn said in an interview Saturday.

"I think just like what you saw in 2014 — three-way race, polling indicated it was highly probable, almost impossible for anyone but Sean Parnell to win," Heckendorn said. "I'd say there's not a whole lot of difference between what they're doing today and four years ago."

Walker is a longtime Republican and his lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, is a longtime Democrat. In 2014, Mallott withdrew as the Alaska Democratic Party nominee, agreeing to support Walker and run for lieutenant governor instead. The two ran on what came to be called the "Unity Ticket."

The Alaska Democratic Party filed a lawsuit last year to overturn a law that barred independent candidates from contesting party primaries. The Alaska Supreme Court decision in April upheld a Juneau Superior Court decision from October.

The state's primary election is Aug. 21, and the general election is Nov. 6.

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