Alaska's AFL-CIO endorses Walker for Governor

Published: Aug. 24, 2018 at 4:15 PM AKDT
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Gov. Bill Walker’s reelection campaign received a large boost Friday when the state’s umbrella labor organization, Alaska’s AFL-CIO, endorsed him at its biennial convention in Fairbanks.

"All I can say is thank you to Alaska's working families, who have sacrificed for three and a half years to help achieve the compromise on a long-term fiscal plan," Walker said in a prepared statement issued after the endorsement. "They've persevered through reduced dividends, flat contracts, and in many cases done the job of two or three people."

Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, said he hoped the decision would convince the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich, to step out of the race.

“Mark has been a friend to all of us, and we hope to continue that friendship with him,” Beltrami said in an interview.

As the incumbent, though, Walker, an independent, would have to deserve to be fired for the labor movement to reject him, Beltrami said.

“He’s earned another four years — we support most of what he’s done,” Beltrami said.

Both Walker and Begich addressed the convention and its 102 registered delegates before the endorsement vote, Beltrami said. In asking delegates whether they supported Walker, “there was a thunderous yes,” Beltrami said. The room, at the Westmark Hotel, fell silent when he asked if anyone was opposed, he said.

Beltrami is widely believed to have been one of the driving forces to convince Byron Mallott, once the Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, to instead run in a unity ticket as Walker’s running mate that year. The pair is running again together this year. While Walker is registered as an independent, Mallott has remained a Democrat, according to the to the Alaska Division of Elections.

In a statement released by his campaign, Begich said:

"I am going to continue doing what I have always done which is campaign on my values — including fighting for Alaska's working families. Today, the AFL-CIO endorsed a candidate who has a one-issue agenda, but I hear from union members and working families all across this state who are concerned about increasing crime, inconsistent education funding, and a lack of long-term fiscal stability."

Begich said it's time for Alaska to have new leadership.

Beltrami has been trying to avoid a three-way race for governor this year. Polls taken by the AFL-CIO in June and this month show the Republican candidate, Michael Dunleavy, winning in a three-way race, but either Walker or Begich beating him in a two-way contest. A portion of the poll, by Harstad Strategic Research of Colorado released Friday by Beltrami, showed that Dunleavy’s support has increased since June from 32 to 36 percent in a three-way race and that Begich had slipped in that kind of contest to 24 percent from 28 percent. This month, Walker was at 26 percent in a three-way race, but ahead of Dunleavy 47 to 43 percent in a two-way race, the poll said.

The poll, of 602 likely voters, also asked about the Permanent Fund dividend. It showed that since June, Alaskans had increased their support for using a portion of the fund for state government, from 51 percent to 53 percent.