Walker backs out of Gubernatorial race, endorses Begich

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska Governor Bill Walker has suspended his campaign for governor.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has suspended his campaign for governor, just less than three weeks out from the election. (KTUU)

The announcement came at a candidates’ forum at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, billed as the largest gathering of indigenous people in the country.

“Every decision I've made as your governor, I’ve made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska,” he said before the candidates’ forum began. "With that said, effective today, I am suspending my campaign for re-election as Governor," Walker continued. Audible gasps and a couple shouts of "No!" rang out after the statement.

“It’s become clear we cannot win a three-way race,” Walker said, with newly sworn-in Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson at his side.

"I have talked to many Alaskans to determine whether I or Mark Begich had a better chance of running a competitive race against Mike Dunleavy," Walker said. "The determination was made that, at this point, Begich has the better odds."

It’s been just days since Walker announced that his Lieutenant Governor, and until then, running mate Byron Mallott, was stepping down from office after making unspecified “inappropriate overtures.”

[RELATED: Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigns after making ‘inappropriate overtures’]

Walker had since sworn in Health and Social Services commissioner Valerie Davidson as Lt. Gov., and saying that she would take Mallott’s role as running-mate for the election, though it was too late to remove Mallott’s name from the ballot.

The suspension of the campaign means Walker's name, too, will appear on the ballot. Absentee ballots have already been mailed to some Alaskans.

"Alaskans deserve a choice better than Mike Dunleavy," Walker said, outlining his determination that Begich has the better chance to beat the Republican candidate. He said Dunleavy would eliminate the Medicaid expansion, de-fund the Alaska gas line project, undo the bipartisan fiscal plan and slash budgets for education, rural Alaska, and those receiving health care.

After Walker made his announcement, Alaska Native leaders from many regions spent the next half an hour or so thanking him for his service to the state, and his apology to Alaska Natives on the first day of the conference. The long farewell included many hugs, an Inupiat farewell song, and the singing of a song called "Hallelujah."

The convention then moved forward with its candidates' forum, starting first with Congressional candidates Alyse Galvin and Rep. Don Young, and then candidates for governor Mike Dunleavy and Mark Begich, facing each other in a two-way race for the first time.

Click here to watch the AFN stream of the events today. The Candidates' forum begins at about 7:42:30



 
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