Alaska candidates for governor plan campaign moves

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Candidates in Alaska's three-way gubernatorial race wasted no time Wednesday launching their post-primary campaigns and welcoming their running mates for the general election in November.

Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and Democratic challenger Byron Mallott easily won their party nominations, advancing to face independent candidate Bill Walker.

Parnell, at a Wednesday afternoon news conference where he was joined by GOP lieutenant governor nominee Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, spoke with reporters about a ballot measure to repeal the state's new petroleum tax system that he championed, a referendum that's expected to factor into the race this fall.

The 51-year-old governor told reporters that early seesawing returns caused anxiety, but he expects the final tally will show voters upheld his new law. "The public has ruled the direction that we're headed," he said.

Voting on the referendum was too close to call Wednesday afternoon, but the attempted repeal was trailing. Absentee votes will be counted next week.

If the repeal fails, it would be expected to bolster Parnell's campaign. Mallott and Walker, meanwhile, were in favor of ditching the new law in favor of the previous tax system.

Mallott, 71, was flying Wednesday from his hometown of Juneau to Anchorage, where his campaign will be run with Democratic lieutenant governor candidate State Sen. Hollis French.

Walker, 63, who is running with independent lieutenant governor candidate Craig Fleener, was heading to Palmer to help set up his campaign booth at the Alaska State Fair, which opens Thursday.

"It's a great way to meet a whole bunch of Alaskans," Walker said.

Political observers give Parnell the edge in the general election race, even if Mallott and Walker pick off some of his support.

One longtime political watcher, Stephen Haycox, has said Mallott is the weakest of the three candidates and has run a lackluster campaign. Haycox, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Anchorage, believes Walker could prove formidable if he can sway a significant number of Democrats to cross over his way.

Walker, however, finished second behind Parnell in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial race. He bypassed the primary this time after opting to gather signatures to qualify as an unaffiliated candidate.

Mallott said he has been traveling around the state since October to reach out to all Alaskans, and he believes his campaign represents the only Democratic voice against what he sees as two Republican opponents.

"I think my campaign will be able to articulate clearly the differences between us," he said, adding he has been campaigning every day, despite what some observers consider as low-profile early campaigns by all three front-runners. "I think that will be very telling in the end."

Before the primary, the campaigns were largely overshadowed by contentious runs for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Begich. The gubernatorial runs also took a back seat to the oil tax referendum.

08/21/2014 - 8:26am