Division of Elections still 'processing' the impact of Walker's campaign suspension

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has suspended his campaign for governor, just less than three weeks out from the election. (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Division of Elections is still "processing" the implications of Gov. Bill Walker's decision to suspend his reelection bid ahead of the Nov. 6 election. State officials said Saturday that more information will be available Monday, the same day that early voting is scheduled to start.

As of Friday, the state had sent out 22,562 absentee ballots with 3,076 of them already returned. Samantha Miller, a spokesperson for the Division of Elections, said it would be “not be appropriate” to discuss whether absentee votes could be changed before the election while the division was still "processing" Walker's decision.

Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party, Jay Parmley, said he isn’t sure if any mechanism exists for someone to change an absentee ballot that had already been submitted or mismarked, and that the Democrats had also asked that question of the Division of Elections.

When Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigned Tuesday, the state issued advice about what that decision would mean for the November election.

“Under state law, it is too late for a candidate to withdraw from the ballot; that must happen at least 64 days before the general election,” according to the press release from the state.

Nora Morse, Begich’s campaign manager, said part of the last 17 days of the election campaign would be spent educating voters that Walker and Mallott would be on the ballot but that they would not be running.

Walker’s decision to suspend his campaign had led to a more tangible impact for Democrats in the form of $5,000 in online donations in the past 24 hours, a high figure for a Friday night and Saturday morning, said Parmley.

The executive director said there was also an added sense of “enthusiasm and excitement” among volunteers and the Democratic headquarters in general. At the Begich campaign headquarters in midtown Anchorage there was said to be a similar sense of excitement.

Volunteers were calling Walker voters and independents to convince them to now vote for Begich, the call sheets being used spoke explicitly about the governor’s “courageous” decision to suspend his race.

When asked about whether Walker’s decision would see a greater allocation of resources from the Alaska Democratic Party, Morse said that the party “has always been supportive of Mark Begich” and that that would continue.

Parmley said he was aware of an “internal reallocation” of resources at the party level but more in terms of time and manpower than money. The state Democrats are allowed to give a maximum of $200,000 to a gubernatorial campaign which Parmley expects to hand over “in the next couple of days.”

Parmley described calling the Democratic National Committee within minutes of Walker’s suspension announcement to request more money and that he “fully expects” more funding to come down.

He said the DNC had given $150,000 to the Alaska Democrats for the 2018 legislative, congressional and gubernatorial races but he couldn’t estimate how much more would now be offered.

“I think Mark Begich’s platform is going to stay the same,” said Morse, when asked whether the Democrat may take a more centrist position with Walker leaving the campaign.

Morse said Begich remained focused on securing the Permanent Fund Dividend and the fiscal future of Alaska, combating crime and funding public education. She described that there was now a “clear contrast” in a two-way race with Mike Dunleavy.

Dunleavy’s office was unable to speak in person or on the phone Saturday due to “time constraints” and directed Channel 2 to a statement released Friday.

The campaign promised that a Dunleavy administration would “reduce the size of government, pay full PFDs, and put criminals in jail where they belong” but protested against “a bitter, partisan attack” by Walker toward their candidate.

“While many special interest power brokers have labored feverishly in the last few days to manipulate this election, our campaign has operated transparently, in full view of the public, from day one,” said Brett Huber, the campaign manager for Alaskans for Dunleavy, in Friday’s statement.

Both Begich and Dunleavy said on Friday after Walker suspended his campaign that it was “full steam ahead” until the election.