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Lawsuit challenging Walker-Mallott campaign won't be appealed

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published September 29, 2014

The lawsuit that could have ended the "unity" ticket of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott has been dropped, with the plaintiff who brought it saying the Legislature should enact a permanent regulation to prevent future confusion.

"Voters will make the final decision Nov. 4 without further distraction," said a statement sent by Steve Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair in Anchorage.

Strait brought the lawsuit challenging the emergency regulation issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and the Alaska Division of Elections that approved the merger of gubernatorial candidate Walker and Mallott as his running mate on a "nonparty" ticket. Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock on Friday ruled that the emergency regulation was valid.

The regulation was issued early this month, after more than 40,000 primary voters cast ballots for a Democratic ticket that had Mallott running for governor with running mate Hollis French.

After the primary, both men resigned from the Democratic ticket. Walker's original running mate, Craig Fleener, also withdrew from their ticket, opening the door for the Walker-Mallott campaign that many believe presents a more formidable challenge to Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, who is running for re-election with running mate Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Statutes do not spell out procedures for when a nonparty candidate such as Walker must fill a vacancy created by a withdrawal. In a lengthy explanation of his decision, Suddock on Friday said he was constrained by three decades of precedent, including a Supreme Court ruling, attorney general opinions, similar decisions by past lieutenant governors, and numerous Legislatures that had not created a statute to address such situations.

Strait said Monday morning he would not appeal Suddock's decision to the state Supreme Court.

"I concur with Judge Suddock that the situation indeed is a train wreck and should never again occur in another Alaskan election," Strait said in a written statement. "To that end the Legislature should fully debate the issue and enact a permanent regulation to address it."

The decision to not appeal "will allow the lieutenant governor and the Legislature to deal with this problem of disenfranchising over 42,000 voters in a future legislative session as suggested by Judge Suddock," Strait said.

Walker in a statement called the lawsuit "partisan politics at its worst." Strait had argued the case was not about politics, as similar, future decisions could disenfranchise any party.

Walker said: "As intervenors in the case, we are entitled to seek attorney's fees from Mr. Strait, but we're not going to do that. We're pleased this exercise is finished and are eager to devote our full attention to the important issues of the campaign."

Strait noted that his attorney in the case, Ken Jacobus, a former Alaska Republican Party attorney, had met with clerk of the Supreme Court Friday afternoon to arrange a schedule of court proceedings in the event of an appeal.

"Should I have prevailed in the Supreme Court, (the) schedule would allow only three weeks before the election for a remedy and the possibility of an even larger election train wreck," Strait said.