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Friday, January 28, 2022

Walker or Begich? The Moderate’s Dilemma.

Alaska voters, we need to have a conversation. And I know this may hurt a little. It’s about Bill Walker and Mark Begich, the two “moderates” in the 3-way race for Alaska governor – the first, a former Republican and incumbent, the second, a Democrat and former US Senator. The third player in our little melodrama is Mike Dunleavy, a former Republican right-wing conservative state senator from Wasilla who quit in the middle of his term. In the end, your vote is your choice and yours alone, but I can’t let you step behind the red, white, and blue curtain and fill in the oval without speaking my piece. If Dunleavy is truly the guy for you, then you can punch out and go home now. It’s the others I need to talk to.

First, I want you to think back to The Unity Ticket of 2014 – an Independent ticket with a Republican for Governor and a Democrat for Lt. Governor. It made us feel pretty awesome, and kind of mavericky. It felt right for Alaska, and we wanted that feeling to go on. I know I did.

But then something happened. Lots of somethings happened.

  • The governor who said he was going to be tough on oil not only refused to even entertain the notion of restructuring oil taxes back to their historic rates (which would all but wipe out our huge budget deficit), he fought to bond for $1 billion to bail out a bunch of Texas billionaires who got mad they weren’t getting their oil tax credits paid back fast enough.
  • Instead, the governor who said he would protect and defend the PFD decided to unilaterally cut that money that goes right into the pocket of every Alaskan, the great economic equalizer that keeps more than 20,000 Alaskans out of poverty every year. Almost a billion dollars a year never made it into the Alaskan economy. And he also opposed inflation-proofing the fund. But don’t worry, Conoco-Phillips is fine.
  • The governor swore he’d keep his extreme social conservatism out of the state’s politics. Then Alaska joined a brief to uphold bans on same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court. The brief said that same-sex marriage would “cause incalculable damage to our civic life.” Thankfully we lost that effort, but not without a public shaming reminder from the governor that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”  With the US Supreme Court now in transition, and Roe v. Wade potentially on thin ice with decisions left to the states, will Walker’s extreme anti-choice beliefs come into play? They very well might.
  • Candidate Walker said he was a friend to fish. “Fish first,” he said. Since then, his administration has authorized more than 80 bore/test holes for the disastrous Pebble mine project, and just a few days ago his administration killed the Chuitna Citizens Coalition’s 9-year fight to preserve waters for salmon instead of giant coal strip mining projects right across Cook Inlet fromAnchorage. “In my 23 years working on salmon habitat permitting issues in Alaska, I have never seen an abuse of power like this,” said Cook Inletkeeper’s Bob Shavelson. “Today’s decision means that Alaskans have no more pro-active tools to protect salmon streams.” Fish first, indeed…
  • Candidate Walker, when negotiations were being made, said he was only interested in one term.
  • But wait, there’s more. Millions in education money vetoes, appointing pro-voucher candidates to the State Board of Education, policies that weaken national parks, and put Denali wildlife in jeapordy… I could go on for a long time.

The right likes to pound the table and say that Walker is a Democrat, but I’m here to tell you that after two years working in the Capitol in Juneau, he is no Democrat. I worked for Democrats; I know what they look like. Democrats in 2014 removed their own candidates, made one Lt. Governor under Walker, and threw the other under the bus. Actually, Hollis French, volunteered to jump under the bus for what he believed was the good of the state. Walker, by the way, was perfectly happy to let Democrats step aside for him – promising all sorts of things, including that laundry list above, in order to win.

The Democratic Party even fought a lawsuit to allow Independent candidates to appear on the Democratic primary ballot this time. But this time we didn’t have to settle. We had a Democratic candidate running who could win. And Walker knew this as well as anyone. So, when Mark Begich got on his party’s OWN primary ballot to run a fair fight against Walker for the Democratic nomination – guess what? Walker changed plans and jumped ship. Why? Because he knew he would lose. Simple as that. Now, after deserting that hard-won space on the primary ballot, he will slip right on to the general election ballot and turn it into a 3-way race.

Moderates are now apoplectic. A 3-way race will divide their vote and assure a Dunleavy victory, they say. Surely, Bill Walker knows this risk. He’s not stupid. He’s crunched the numbers. So why did he put his foot on the scale for Dunleavy and turn it into a 3-way race?

Two reasons:

  1. He’s counting on Democrats to turn on their own. Why shouldn’t he? We’ve done it before, right? Remember when Democrats and Independents bypassed US Senate candidate Scott McAdams (D) to write in Republican Lisa Murkowski (R) so the extreme right-wing candidate Joe Miller would lose? Remember that? Yeah, D’s and I’s voted for a Republican and got what we voted for. And Walker’s first term was the same. We tossed our own candidates to get a Republican in the Governor’s office… because he was a less awful Republican than the one we had. And now, that less-awful Republican wants us to YET AGAIN throw a Democrat under the bus to keep himself in office.

Well, I’m not sure about you, but I’ve had about enough of that. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And for those of you who are about to get fooled a THIRD time? Consider yourself smacked in the face with a nice fresh salmon. While we still have them.

2. He’d rather have Mike Dunleavy as Governor than Mark Begich. Walker donated the maximum allowable amount of money to Dunleavy’s Senate campaign at a time when far right-wing Republicans were pushing to break up the Alaska Senate bipartisan coalition.  So, we can safely assume if Dunleavy wins, Walker will be sleeping better at night than you will.

And is Walker “nice?” Sure he is. Dunleavy’s “nice” too, as a matter of fact. They are both soft-spoken and personable, folksy and occasionally even charming. I’ve had lovely conversations with them. THAT DOESN’T MATTER. Policies matter. Promises matter. Governance matters. So get your heads out of wherever they are (for the sake of decorum, let’s just call it “the clouds”), splash some cold water on your faces and wake the hell up. I’m sorry to be brusque with you. It’s not normally my way, but it has to be done.

And finally, the numbers. Walker’s approval ratings hover around or below 30%. In political speak, this means he’s pretty much unelectable. And just like he knew he couldn’t beat Begich, he knows he can’t win a 3-way race. So he has “encouraged” Democrats to sign an actual petition asking Mark Begich to step aside – asking the most hyper-qualified Democrat in the state to quit his own primary so the less-awful Republican who doesn’t keep promises can have the supposed win. Again. That takes some nerve, I’ll give him that.

I know you want to fight against Mike Dunleavy. I get it. But ask yourself, what are you fighting FOR? If Dunleavy does win, he’ll win because people whose values align with Begich got scared and panicked and voted for a non-viable candidate they didn’t really want.

There’s an old Turkish proverb that goes, “However far you travel down the wrong road, turn back.”

It’s ok to change your mind, and it’s ok to be wrong! I was! I not only supported Walker personally, and gave him my vote, I urged others to do so, and The Mudflats endorsed his candidacy. There’s no shame in believing someone, there’s only shame in believing them twice after they show you who they are.

Democrats and Independents brought Walker to the dance, and then for four years we watched him slow dance with every Republican in the room while we drank our punch awkwardly in the corner. Now the phone is ringing again, and we’re being asked on a second date, and can we drive? I don’t know about you, but I have other plans.

There’s a viable candidate on the ballot who mostly matches up with my values. And I’m going to donate to him, and vote for him. It’s how Democracy is supposed to work. One person, one conscience, one vote.

Photo by Zach D. Roberts






6 Responses to “Walker or Begich? The Moderate’s Dilemma.”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    Wake up, Alaska!

  2. Really? says:

    Thank you Jeanne for “paying attention” and summing up the facts. I’ve been so busy knitting pussy hats, I let some past Walker disapointments slip by. We do thank him for expanding Medicaid.

  3. CityKid says:

    Thanks Jeanne for filling in some of the blanks and knocking some of us upside the head.

  4. moose pucky says:

    Moose Pucky appreciates this post and is all in for Begich..

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