Walker goes door to door for independent legislative candidate

Published: Nov. 2, 2018 at 8:51 PM AKDT
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Gov. Bill Walker may be through as a politician since dropping his re-election bid two weeks ago, but he’s begun campaigning for like-minded and appreciative legislators. He’s endorsed an independent in Juneau, and on Thursday, he went door-to-door with Rep. Jason Grenn, also an independent.

“This is my friend Bill,” Grenn said, introducing Walker to startled neighbors in a Sand Lake community that’s part of Grenn’s District 22.

Though Halloween pumpkins and witches still decorated the porches in the area, Grenn wasn’t with someone trick-or-treating in a Bill Walker mask — it was the real person.

The biggest dangers the pair encountered were icy sidewalks and a few barking and snarling dogs. Walker’s security detail didn’t have to leave the idling SUV that tracked the two men as they walked along Berry Patch Drive.

Walker’s freezing campaign director, John-Henry Heckendorn, said he didn’t know if Walker had ever campaigned door to door. It certainly never happened while he was governor, said Heckendorn, part of an entourage of aides and volunteers that remained in the street while Walker and Grenn knocked on doors.

Grenn, like Walker, was a long-time Republican. And like Walker, he switched to independent. Walker has endorsed another independent, Chris Dimond, who’s running against a Democrat in Juneau. If Dimond wins, the Juneau Empire reported, it would be the first time in more than four decades that heavily Democratic downtown Juneau hasn’t been represented by a Democrat.

Grenn said he voted for Sean Parnell, Walker’s Republican opponent in 2014, but decided that Walker was making “tough decisions” in office and was worthy of support.

Walker told some of the neighbors that he liked Grenn’s sponsorship of an ethics bill and a ballot initiative that withheld expense checks from lawmakers if they didn’t complete a budget in time. But at one of the homes they visited, resident Shelly Vuckovich already knew — and was happy about it, even as Grenn said he couldn’t be all things to all people.

“No one is going to agree with everybody,” she told the two politicians.

“Yeah,” said Grenn, “my wife doesn’t agree with me all the time.”

“You are a guy,” Vuckovich shot back.

Everyone laughed and Walker gave Grenn a loud pat on the shoulders.

Walker praised Grenn to one of the neighbors as a valuable legislative partner.

“The yardage we made, the last few sessions when Jason was there, it’s largely because of his willingness to sort of work across the aisle and just work for Alaska,” Walker said.

By his own account, Grenn has knocked on 7,000 doors since he began person-to-person campaigning in June. He said he hopes that voters will see that at least he’s listening to them and is a hard worker, even if they don’t agree with all his votes.