The Alaska Governor's race takes another turn for the strange

Remember that crazy story out of Alaska last week? The state’s Lieutenant Governor, Byron Mallott (D), just up and resigned his office without anyone knowing it was going to happen. He apologized for making “inappropriate comments” to someone, but nobody seemed to know what he said, who he said it to or where or when it had happened.

At the time I concluded that it wasn’t going to have much of an effect on the Governor’s election because his boss, Governor Bill Walker, was circling the drain in the polls with about 27%, roughly tied with Democrat Mark Begich. Republican Mike Dunleavy was up in the high 40s and seemed to be cruising to victory. But now the race has taken yet another unusual turn. The Governor has dropped out of the race and pitched his support to Begich. (CNN)

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker suspended his re-election campaign Friday night with less than three weeks to go before election day.

In a statement, Walker expressed concerns that he and Lieutenant Gov. Valerie Davidson would not win the emerging three-way race for the governor’s seat.

“With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election,” Walker wrote in an Instagram post Friday night. “But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race.”

The fact that Walker used to be a Republican, switching to independent, allowed him to describe his 2014 campaign as a sort of fusion ticket with a Democratic Lt. Governor. The fact that he’s pitching his support to Begich puts the lie to that idea rather starkly. Walker has become a Democrat in all but name at this point.

But how will it affect the race? First of all, early voting starts this week and I don’t think they can take him off the ballot. He’ll probably draw some votes anyway. Further, a solid majority of Alaskans (more than 50%) are registered independents. There’s no assurance that all the independents he was previously attracting are going to go over to Begich in a block. The last polling we have where Walker was taken out of the formula showed Dunleavy still holding a seven-point lead over Begich, 52-45. That could easily shift, however, since it was taken before the Mallott flap and Walker’s suspension announcement.

Still, like so many things in Alaska, we appear to be heading for a wild finish. It’s turning out to be something of a rogue race, eh? (I’ll just get my hat.)