Bill Walker, Alaska governor, suspends reelection campaign, endorses Democratic challenger

October 20, 2018

Bill Walker, the governor of Alaska, abruptly suspended his re-election campaign Friday and endorsed his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich, in lieu of both candidates competing in next month’s midterm race against Republican hopeful Mike Dunleavy.

Mr. Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, said he made the decision after determining that Mr. Begich had a better chance of defeating Mr. Dunleavy in the gubernatorial race, upending the contest with less than three weeks remaining under the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

“Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race,” the first-term governor said in a social media post announcing the suspension of his re-election campaign.

“Alaskans deserve a competitive race. Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy,” Mr. Walker continued, adding that Mr. Begich’s stance on certain issues, including health care and employment, “more closely align with my priorities for Alaska.”

The 67-year-old former mayor of Valdez, Mr. Walker unsuccessfully campaigned as a Republican candidate for governor in 2010 prior to running as an independent and winning four years later. He has polled poorly among constituents in recent months, however, and a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult found that more than half of Alaskans, 54 percent, disapprove of his job as governor.

Mr. Walker’s lieutenant governor and running mate, Byron Mallott, abruptly quit earlier this week over having made unspecified “inappropriate comments” to a woman.

“He realized it was inappropriate, and once he realized the impact of what he’d said, he thought it was appropriate for him to resign,” Mr. Walker said earlier this week.

Mr. Begich, 56, previously served as mayor of Anchorage as well as a U.S. Senator for Alaska from 2009 to 2015; Mr. Dunleavy, 57, was a member of the Alaska state Senate from 2013 through earlier this year.

Gubernatorial contests underway in 26 states will culminate with next month’s midterm elections, in addition to House and Senate races throughout the country.

Alaska is currently the only state in the country led by agovernor who ran as an Independent, compared to 33 overseen by Republicans and 16 by Democrats.