Here’s what Bill Walker will do if Mark Begich runs for governor

If former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich jumps into the Alaska Democratic primary for governor by Friday's deadline, Gov. Bill Walker will launch an outside run for re-election, gathering signatures to get the names of Walker and his running mate on the November ballot.

Walker's campaign had said earlier this month that Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot would run as independents in the Democratic primary in August, a path they had not abandoned as of Wednesday.

But neither has filed for the primary yet. The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.

Begich, a former Anchorage mayor who could threaten the governor's primary bid, also has not filed for the primary. But he has said he's considering it.

Begich on Wednesday did not return a phone call and text seeking comment about his intentions.

"If Mark Begich decides to run in the Democratic primary at the last minute, Bill and Byron will run as independents via nominating petition, based on those criteria," said Walker campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn.

"They are not interested in a destructive primary, and they are absolutely committed to making sure that Alaskans have an independent choice on Nov. 6," Heckendorn said in an email Wednesday.


Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said he's also thinking about entering the Democratic primary for governor, but will step aside if Begich enters.

"I'm still waiting to see how things shake out," he said.

Wielechowski said he's repeatedly encouraged Begich to run in recent months. Asked if Begich had specified his plan,  Wielechowski replied, "I won't divulge private conversations I've had with him."

For the 2014 general election, Walker gathered signatures to appear on the ballot in an outside bid, avoiding a Republican primary face-off with then Gov. Sean Parnell, who beat him in 2010.

Walker is a longtime Republican and Mallott a longtime Democrat. But Walker dropped his party registration in September 2014 so he could join his campaign with Mallott and receive assistance from the Alaska Democratic Party. Mallott had been the Democratic candidate for governor but agreed to take the No. 2 spot to accommodate Walker.

"Bill and Byron are grateful for the support of the Democratic Party in the last election, and to the Democratic Party and the individuals who have worked hard to open the Democratic Primary to independents in order to achieve a two-way race in the general," Heckendorn's emailed statement said. "That is the path they plan to take right now."

As for the Alaska Republican primary for governor, a big name is holding open the possibility of jumping into that contest by Friday evening. Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said people have urged him to do so, but he has not made up his mind.

"It's always nice to be asked and encouraged," he said.

Others leading contenders for the Republican nomination for governor include former state lawmaker Mike Dunleavy from Wasilla, businessman Scott Hawkins and Rep. Mike Chenault, the former House speaker.

The three candidates will face off against Walker at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday to debate energy issues, capping an all-day conference at the Dena'ina Center organized by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association.

Also on Wednesday, former GOP state legislator John Binkley, who has flirted with a run for governor, said Wednesday in a text the run is probably not happening.

"There has been a lot of speculation about my intentions over the last several months," said Binkley, whose four children own the Anchorage Daily News.

"Barring some extraordinary event in the next few days, I do not intend to run for governor during the upcoming election," he said.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.