Former Gov. Bill Walker considering 2022 reelection bid

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is considering whether he will run again for the state's top job.
Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is considering whether he will run again for the state's top job.(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 5:59 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Former Gov. Bill Walker is considering a reelection bid in 2022 to be Alaska’s next governor.

Walker, an independent, said that he would make a decision whether to run after the Legislature adjourns, likely in the summer. He said that he has enjoyed his time as a visiting fellow at Harvard University but has struggled sitting on the sidelines.

“I’ve not been a very good bystander when there’s work that needs to be done,” Walker said.

Walker came into office in 2014 as the state faced a $4 billion deficit. That deficit was shrunk by the Legislature and the Walker administration, but the state still faces profound fiscal challenges.

In 2017, he proposed a payroll tax that did not pass. He successfully advocated for Senate Bill 26, which now draws annually from the Permanent Fund to pay for state services.

In 2016, Walker vetoed half of that year’s Permanent Fund dividend. That decision proved highly controversial, but he defends it as being the only choice with Alaska facing a fiscal crisis.

He is happy to see that the Legislature could soon discuss new revenues to bridge the state’s fiscal gap after largely avoiding those conversations in recent years. If he runs again, Walker said he wants to enact a solid fiscal plan to stop spending the state’s savings and finish what he started in his first term.

The elephant in the room for a possible Walker reelection bid is what happened three weeks before the 2018 election.

Walker was running for reelection alongside then-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. During that year’s Alaska Federation of Natives conference, allegations emerged of inappropriate comments Mallott had made to a female acquaintance.

Over the next few days, Mallott abruptly resigned and Walker announced he was withdrawing from his reelection bid.

Two years later the Anchorage Daily News published a full account of the incident after confusion among the media and the public. The woman at the center of the incident did not want to be publicly identified before speaking to the newspaper in 2020.

Walker addressed the Mallott incident, writing by email:

“Let me begin by saying I understand that Alaska has unacceptably high rates of victimization of women. Even one incident of harassment or abuse is too many, and sadly Alaska has a very long way to go in that regard.

Specifically about the incident leading to Byron’s resignation, it is important to recognize how quickly it all happened:

This incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon. My chief of staff learned of it late the following day, Monday, and informed me of it in a discussion late that night.

The very next time I saw Byron was first thing Tuesday morning, by which time he had already drafted and signed his letter of resignation.

I believe my administration strove to adhere to a very high ethical and moral standard in that regard, and I appreciated that Byron’s final act as lieutenant governor was to take full responsibility for his actions.

At that point Valerie Davidson was immediately sworn in as lieutenant governor. And from that point forward, my administration’s response to the media was coordinated and approved by the victim and her advisers with the primary goal of maintaining her privacy.

Although my administration’s approach was understandably frustrating to the public and the media, who wanted additional details, I believe it was handled appropriately. Less than 24 hours after learning of the incident we took swift, and final, corrective action and then took every measure possible to honor the wishes of the victim.”

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker

Mallott died in May of 2020.

Walker said, if he chooses to run, that it would be up to Alaskans to judge his record and his vision for how to handle the state’s challenges.

“If Alaskans choose somebody else, they choose somebody else. I’ll support that person that they choose and away we go. It’s a matter of, do I have something to offer? That’s really what I have to decide. That’s something I have to decide in my mind, my heart. Do I have something to bring to the table,” he said.

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