Lt. Gov candidate says she plans to run alongside Mark Begich in upcoming election
In the first of today's buzzer-beater election filings, one candidate says she'll be running for office alongside a big Alaska name, Mark Begich, who will be seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
Today is the filing deadline for candidates to declare whether they're run in the state's Aug. 21 primary, and for days now, rumblings in Alaska's political realm have circulated rumors that former Sen. Mark Begich will file at the last minute, ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.
Debra Call, an Alaska Native tribal official, told KTUU Friday that she was called on Thursday by Begich, who asked her if she would run with him as his lieutenant governor. She said yes.
Call, who filed her candidacy Friday morning, said that while Begich hasn't filed yet, he plans to do so.
"I've supported him in the past, and I made my mind up within the past 24 hours to run," Call said, adding that she has wanted to run for office for some time, but before now hasn't had a good opportunity to balance work and family in a way that would allow her to do so.
Reached by phone Friday morning, Begich's long time political ally and state senator Bill Wielechowski said he didn't want to talk about his private conversations with Begich, but then added a caveat.
"I do believe he will run," Wielechowski said.
State Sen. Tom Begich, Mark's brother, also said Friday he believed Mark would run. Tom Begich, once a leading candidate recruiter for the Democratic Party, said he's seen polling data that show Mark to be in a strong position in both two-way and three-way races.
Mark Begich, a Democrat, was a one term in the U.S. senator defeated by Republican Dan Sullivan in 2014. He was also the mayor of Anchorage for two terms and was a former member of the Anchorage Assembly. He is the son of the late U.S. Rep. Nick Begich Sr., who disappeared during a campaign flight in 1972.
Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker says he won't run in the Democratic primary. Before Begich's candidacy became clear earlier this week, Walker, an independent, had said he planned to take advantage of new Democratic Party rules allowing independents to run in the party's August primary.
Even though an independent wouldn't have to change that status to join the party's primary, a win there would allow Democrats to lend their considerable get-out-the-vote machine and to an independent campaign.
Walker said he and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will run as independents in the general election.
"There has been a lot of rumor and speculation over the last few days and weeks," Walker said in the post without specifically naming Begich. "I am glad that uncertainty is over. Byron and I will run as Independents in the general election."
If he ran in the Democratic primary and Begich beat him there, he couldn't run in the general as an independent, according to state rules.
The pair was elected to office in 2014 as a "Unity Ticket" where the two men, Mallott a Democrat, and Walker a life-long Republican, teamed up. Walker dropped his Republican Party membership when the ticket formed, though Mallott remains a Democrat.
Since being elected to office Walker has been battling a state recession and a state opioid epidemic, which has strapped resources thin across the state.
At a gubernatorial debate Thursday Walker spoke about the budget.
"We did a lot of things in order to get control of the $3.7 billion deficit it skyrocketed to," Walker said.
Walker’s campaign manager, John-Henry Heckendorn, said Friday that Walker still has his original independent filing on record at the state Division of Elections and won't have to file anything today. He said Walker already has half required 3,200 signatures to get on the ballot and predicted the governor would have no problem getting the rest.
Begich plans to file before doors close at the elections division in Anchorage at 5 p.m. Other hopefuls may also meet that deadline, including those looking at the Republican primary.
Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell wasn't in his office at PT Capitol Friday, but a website listing him as a candidate for governor appeared at treadwellalaska.com.
“Whatever I do, there will be an announcement by the end of the day," Treadwell said.
Referring to his website, he said, "I asked for help on getting under construction to be sure we could be ready. Maybe something went live prematurely."