Governor of Alaska Bill Walker announced on Friday to drop his re-election bid just 18 days before the midterm election, publically backing Democratic candidate Mark Begich over Republican Mike Dunleavy.
The announcement came three days after the resignation of his former Lieutenant Governor, Byron Mallott, for making an inappropriate overture toward a woman, per The Hill.
Addressing the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention on Friday, Walker said that he would suspend his campaign with immediate effect, adding that ‘Alaska First’ is and cannot be just a campaign slogan.
“In the time remaining, it has become clear we cannot win a three-way race. The decision was made that at this point, Begich has the better odds. Alaskans deserve a competitive race and Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy.”
Per Reuters, Walker was formerly a Republican, but changed his political affiliation to independent before embarking on his successful 2014 campaign for governor “on a unity ticket with his running mate, Mallot.”
Walker’s move on Friday was appreciated by Democrats, who said that the resignation increased the chances of their candidate winning the election, per The Hill.
Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, called the move a “game changer in the Alaska Governor’s race.”
“This race immediately becomes a tossup, open-seat race between a popular Democrat in Mark Begich and a fringe Republican in Mike Dunleavy,” she added.
On the other hand, Dunleavy’s campaign manager, Brett Huber, fiercely criticized Walker’s decision to suspend the campaign and blasted him for attacking the Republican candidate, as reported by US News.
“Governor Walker could have chosen a dignified, graceful exit to his campaign. Instead, he opted to bow out with a bitter, partisan attack on Mike Dunleavy. It’s too bad – Alaskans deserve better.”
After Walker’s announcement, attendees at the conferences were supportive of his decision of putting the country first, and hugged him for his courage. According to US News, Begich called Walker’s action courageous, while Dunleavy did not acknowledge it in his opening statements.
Walker also took to Twitter and thanked everyone who appreciated him. He termed the support he received “the honor of a lifetime”.
More grateful for the most challenging days as Governor of AK than I would be for the best days in any other role. Thank you for the handshakes, hugs, songs, regalia; your jokes, tears, & laughter; kind words & wishes; your prayers. It is truly the honor of a lifetime. #akleg pic.twitter.com/KKcXVkkyp7— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker) October 20, 2018
According to The Hill, early voting for the Alaskan gubernatorial election starts on Monday, October 22. The report also mentioned a poll released by Alaska Survey Research, which showed that Dunleavy led the polls with 43 percent of likely voters’ support, whereas Begich’s sat at 26.4 percent. Walker was pegged to be 26.6 percent.