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Third-party groups criticized for ads in Alaska governor’s race

  • Author: Becky Bohrer, Associated Press
  • Updated: October 29, 2018
  • Published October 29, 2018

Gubernatorial candidates Mark Begich and Mike Dunleavy. (ADN photos)

A Democratic state senator wants a third-party group to stop implying he supports Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski said Monday that the group Dunleavy for Alaska is deceiving voters. Wielechowski has endorsed Democrat Mark Begich for governor.

The group's website shows what Wielechowski says is a doctored image of him and Dunleavy, under a banner that reads: "Bill Wielechowski says 'I like Mike!'" There also is audio of Wielechowski saying he likes Dunleavy.

The image on the website was changed later in the day to one of Wielechowski and Dunleavy with blogger Jeff Landfield between them. The prior image had been edited to remove Landfield, said Wielechowski.

Wielechowski acknowledges liking Dunleavy on a personal level but said they disagree on many issues.

"I'm going to do whatever I can to get them to take it off, and if it means going to court, then I guess we'll have to try to do that," Wielechowski said. The election is next week.

Wielechowski alleged copyright infringement, misappropriation of likeness and misrepresentation of facts. Matt Singer, an attorney for Dunleavy for Alaska, called Wielechowski's claims frivolous.

"I think it's unfortunate that Sen. Wielechowski said something nice about someone on the other side of the aisle and now wants to run away from it," Singer said.

Such dust-ups in campaigns aren't new. In 2014, Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was at odds with Begich, then a U.S. senator, over ads he ran during his re-election campaign touting their cooperation on issues benefiting Alaskans. Murkowski went on to endorse Begich's Republican rival, Dan Sullivan, who won.

Meanwhile, Treasure Mackley, vice president of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement that her group stands behind a radio ad supporting Begich that mentions Gov. Bill Walker.

The ad, which touches on Medicaid expansion, access to health care and reproductive rights, includes this line: "Even Gov. Walker understands how important it is to stop Mike Dunleavy. So he dropped out and supports Mark Begich."

Begich supports abortion rights. Walker opposes abortion, though in an opinion piece published in the Anchorage Daily News earlier this year, Walker wrote that, for him, being "pro-life is much more than being 'anti-abortion.' It means supporting access to contraception, health care, economic opportunities and reducing crime against women so that fewer women are faced with this decision."

A Walker spokeswoman, Lindsay Hobson, said the ad implies support for Begich positions that Walker did not offer.

"I think that it's taking the governor's support for Begich out of context and really too far," Hobson said.

Earlier this month, Walker ended his campaign. He said he concluded he could not win against Begich and Dunleavy and that Begich had a better chance of being competitive against Dunleavy.

Walker said that while he and Begich don't agree on many issues, Begich's stance on issues such as Medicaid expansion and a state fiscal plan more closely aligned with his priorities. He said Begich would be better for Alaska than Dunleavy.

Also Monday, Hillary Clinton endorsed Begich via Twitter. President Donald Trump, who endorsed Dunleavy via Twitter last week, carried Alaska in 2016, winning 51 percent of the vote. Clinton finished behind Trump with nearly 37 percent.

The Democratic Governors Association also jumped into the race.

The organization announced Monday that it is backing through its political action committee a newly formed group called Defeat Dunleavy, which plans a TV ad jabbing at Dunleavy over crime in the state.