Annie Zak

Begich refuses calls to drop out of three-way gov race

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, under pressure from some in his party to withdraw from the Alaska governor’s race, said Sept. 4 that he isn’t dropping out. “Let me make it very clear to the reporters and others: If you want to talk about the process, talk to someone else,” he told press and a crowd of cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Anchorage. “We are done with that. I’m in the race to win. It’s a three-way race, so get used to it.” The Democrat’s announcement came about 90 minutes before the state’s deadline to withdraw from the Nov. 6 general election. Begich is facing off against incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican. Some Democrats have said they’re concerned Begich and Walker will split the vote, resulting in a Dunleavy win. Walker is a Republican-turned-independent, who is running again this year with his Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat. In a statement Sept. 4, Walker said no matter how many candidates are in the governor’s race, the election will come down to decisions made on the Permanent Fund and fiscal plan. He described those decisions as tough and ones that “party politicians would like to run away from.” The Dunleavy campaign also used the announcement to further its messaging, referring to Walker and Mallott as a “failed experiment” and Begich as a “career politician” in a statement. The candidates for Alaska’s governor will vie for votes in a state where about 57 percent of registered voters are nonpartisan or undeclared, according to numbers from the Alaska Division of Elections. About 25 percent of the state’s 567,403 registered voters are registered as Republicans, and about 13 percent are registered as Democrats. “I don’t think any rigid analysis of politics is going to help describe what’s going to happen in the next 60 days,” said Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock. “I think, partly after this primary, it’s a little presumptuous for anyone to say, ‘this is how this is gonna come down.’ … Alaskan elections are always so unique.” Another candidate, Libertarian William “Billy” Toien, is also running for governor. A petition on MoveOn.org calling for Begich to drop out of the race had about 900 signatures by Sept. 4, on top of the original 100 it had when it was posted online last month. The original signers included Alaska Native corporation executives, current and former lawmakers, members of Walker’s administration, and others. The deadline for candidates to withdraw from the Nov. 6 general election was 5 p.m. on Sept. 4. If a candidate drops out between that deadline and the general election, their name will still appear on the ballot because it will have already been printed, but votes for them won’t be counted, said Division of Elections spokeswoman Samantha Miller. Dunleavy has a better chance of winning in a three-way race than a two-way race, but he’s not the “automatic winner,” said Ivan Moore, a longtime Alaska pollster who has done polling work for both Begich and Walker. “I think with the three of them in the race, the dynamics could swing any way,” Moore said. “I think it’s legitimately anyone’s race.”

Dunleavy cruises to GOP pick for governor

Former Wasilla state Sen. Mike Dunleavy built a big early lead and held it over former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Aug. 21, winning the Republican primary race for Alaska governor. His victory sets up a three-way race in November’s general election, with Dunleavy facing incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, and former Anchorage mayor and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat. With 98 percent of the precincts counted statewide by Aug. 22, Dunleavy had 62 percent of the vote compared with 32 percent for Treadwell. Dunleavy claimed victory shortly after 11 p.m. Aug. 21 at a Downtown Anchorage hotel, where the Alaska Republican Party held its watch party and where he had watched the results come in most of the night. Dunleavy thanked his supporters, his campaign staff, the other GOP candidates and his wife. He said he would work to build trust among those who didn’t vote for him. “This is a Republican state and we need to take back this governorship,” he said as the crowd cheered. “By working together, we can make it happen.” Meanwhile, state Sen. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage appeared on his way to winning the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor. In an interview, Dunleavy said he planned to celebrate his primary win by going home to Wasilla with his wife, Rose, and feeding their three dogs, Mr. Tito, Blue and Olive. On Aug. 22, he said, the next race begins. Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, said Tuesday’s results signal that the party is behind Dunleavy. “This is a remarkable margin,” he said. Treadwell, in congratulating Dunleavy, also expressed disappointment in the lack of attention on the primary campaigns. “We have to bring the Republican Party together because right now the ideas that we brought forward on trying to save jobs, build jobs in this economy, having experienced people run this thing, we did not get very much attention,” he said. “The biggest issue was who was tallest.” During their campaigns, Dunleavy and Treadwell agreed on a range of issues. Both are pro-life conservatives. Both have said they want to protect Alaskans’ annual Permanent Fund dividend checks. With political experience and significant campaign funding, the two had emerged as front-runners in a Republican primary alongside five other candidates. Dunleavy got into the race much earlier than Treadwell, who filed to run at the last moment in June. Since Aug. 11, Dunleavy has raised $8,000 in donations to his campaign, bringing his fundraising total to about $320,000. Treadwell received $9,000 in donations after Aug. 11 for a total of $145,000. While Dunleavy was the top money-raiser among Republican candidates, donations to his campaign are just part of the picture. He also has benefited from $760,000 — including $16,500 in the past week — pouring into an independent expenditure group fueled largely by Dunleavy’s brother and sportfishing advocate and developer Bob Penney. Campaign season spending pales in comparison to the last governor’s race in 2014, when a three-person fight for the Republican nod for U.S. Senate and a controversial ballot measure on oil taxes fueled a flurry of advertising. That year, primary election turnout was about 39 percent. This year, that number figures to be far lower — if only because the number of registered voters has grown to include people who applied for Permanent Fund dividends but who do not normally cast ballots. Third-party groups can spend an unlimited amount in Alaska campaigns. A group formed to support Treadwell has raised about $60,000, including $7,500 in the past week. In an interview Tuesday night, Treadwell mentioned the money Dunleavy supporters raised. “I ran against essentially a self-funded candidate and our campaign finance laws basically make it very, very hard. This was checkbook deterrence,” he said. “I want to congratulate Mike on his apparent victory.” Asked if he was conceding, Treadwell did not say yes. “What does a concession mean?” he said. “I would like to congratulate whoever won this election, and if it’s Mike, congratulations.” The general election is Nov. 6.
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