Alaska Governor Bill Walker withdraws from race, former opponent Mike Dunleavy opposes salmon protections

Published on
October 24, 2018

With U.S. election day on 6 November just around the corner, Alaska Governor Bill Walker  shocked the state on 19 October by dropping out of his race for reelection.

Walker, an independent, said he realized he would not be able to win a three-way race, and has endorsed the Democratic candidate – former U.S. Senator Mark Begich – who faces former Republican State Senator Mike Dunleavy. Though Walker’s name will still be on the ballot, he urged supporters to vote for Begich.

“Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy,” Walker said.

Walker was set to debate Begich in a debate over commercial fishing on Monday, but with Walker pulling out of the race, the debate organized by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce was canceled. 

Dunleavy would not have appeared at the event anyway, which would have made him the first gubernatorial candidate in 27 years not to attend the historic debate. Instead, Dunleavy said he was “visiting with Alaskans in Barrow.”

Dunleavy has voiced his opposition to Ballot Measure 1, which would enact stricter regulations for oil and gas development in salmon habitats and additional regulations for restoring salmon streams if they are disturbed by development. Companies that don’t follow the rules laid out in the measure would face criminal penalties. 

Dunleavy has also not taken a position on the Pebble Mine project, which critics say could create runoff and pollution that would endanger wild salmon in the area. Walker and Begich have both spoken out against the mine. 

From an economic perspective, Dunleavy has also not made clear whether he supports or opposes the Trump administration’s tariffs levied on China, which threaten the state’s seafood industry. State Senator Dan Sullivan, also a Republican, has come out against the tariffs, which the Alaska seafood industry have opposed due to the tariffs threatening a growing trade relationship between Alaska and China. 

Though there wasn’t a debate on Monday, Begich announced he would still be in Kodiak, answering questions from the community about “fisheries and rural and coastal communities.”

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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