Bill Walker, a lifelong Alaskan who describes himself as “a construction worker with a law degree,” is making a serious bid to get on the ballot as an Independent in an attempt to unseat Gov. Sean Parnell, R, and his Democratic challenger, Byron Mallott. Walker secured the unsolicited support of the Alaska Independence Party, although he doesn’t agree with all of their views.
Walker spoke with residents at Apollo Restaurant earlier this week, and will return to Seward to campaign over the July 4th Mt. Marathon Race weekend.
Walker credits the late Alaska Governor Wally Hickel for suggesting that he run on the independent ticket when Walker made an unsuccessful bid to secure the Republican nomination for Governor against Sean Parnell four years ago.
“I am Republican, but in the closed republican primary, a large portion of the people cannot vote for me,” Walker said. Meanwhile, about 53 percent of the Alaskan electorate are registered as independents or non-partisan voters.
Walker is socially conservative. He’s not in favor gay marriage equality, for instance, and he’s also a “Right to Lifer,” in that he’s opposed to unfettered abortion rights. But if elected, he says he would “on day one” extend federal Medicare benefits to the 41,000 Alaskans who were left without insurance after Gov. Parnell decided not to accept the offer of federal coverage due to opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Alaskans are already paying for the other Americans who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, through their federal income taxes,” Walker said. “Why shouldn’t Alaskans benefit too?”
Walker’s also bucking the Republican Party in Alaska by championing citizen’s referendum Ballot Measure 1, which would repeal the governor and republican-party oil tax reform measure known as Senate Bill 21. As a founding member of the so called “Backbone Group,” Walker participated in rallies across Alaska expressing his disapproval for the governor’s oil company tax reform plans that lower the amount of money that oil companies pay the state in taxes in return for the oil the produce, without holding them accountable for more oil production. Walker also strongly advocates for construction of an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline.
“We are most energy rich state in nation, with the highest cost of energy in the nation. It just makes no sense at all,” Walker said. “I want to make sure that Alaskans don’t make decisions on where they’re going to live, or do business, based on the cost of energy. We should have the lowest cost of energy in the nation, not the highest cost.”
Alaska now has a $2 billion deficit and is forecasting deficit spending in the future. If the state leadership continues to borrow $2 billion from its savings each year, Alaska will run through its savings within the next five to seven years, Walker said. “Right now we’re borrowing almost $2 billion a year to do what we do and we’re acting like it doesn’t matter. It scares me to death.” He and his wife were married 37 years ago in Valdez, and now have grown children and grandchildren here, Walker said.“If we didn’t have them, we’d look at it differently perhaps. But I’m scared of what we will have as a future for this state. I’m also concerned about education, the financial side. I’m concerned that every year we fight over what we’re going to get to fund education up to the very last minute. I think we’re better than that.”
Walker worked as a laborer, teamster and carpenter on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system. He worked for more than three decades to advance construction of an Alaska gas line/LNG project, and has negotiated as an oil and gas expert with major energy companies globally. He serves as general counsel to the Alaska Gasline Port Authority.
Walker’s early political experience includes being a Valdez City Council member, and Mayor of Valdez for a year at age 27. Walker has practiced law in Alaska for 25 years, with a focus on oil and gas development and municipal law. He has represented municipalities including the City of Valdez, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and Mat-Su Borough. His campaign currently has 16 co-chairs statewide, he said, including many mayors including the mayors of Unalaska, Kotzebue, Wasilla, Kodiak Island Borough and Fairbanks/North Star Borough.
“I’ve known Bill for more than 40 years. I’ve watched what he’s done and is capable of doing. He’s definitely a person of action, and if there’s any downside, it’s that nobody’s going to be able to keep up with him,” said Steven McAlpine, a democrat who changed his party affiliation four years ago to vote for Walker in the republican primary. “Bill Walker knows the (oil and gas) industry better than almost anyone. He’s also very familiar with almost every aspect of state government.” “He’s a workaholic, but he’s very effective.”
McAlpine admits his friend Bill can be very conservative, but he believes Walker can break through the partisan divisiveness in Juneau, and will pick the best people to head up his administration—regardless of the party to which they belong.
“The bottom line is this: we have been at loggerheads where the two major political parties fight for control of the legislature, they get control, and then they literally lock out the other side, and they do everything they can to keep the other side locked out. They won’t let them sponsor legislation, or if they do, they certainly won’t pass it, or give them credit for anything. Bill Walker is perfectly capable of working with both republicans and democrats and I think they recognize that.”
Walker said his greatest election challenge is getting known throughout the state. He has become known for hosting a TV show that airs statewide on ABC: “On Point with Bill Walker,” in which he interviews guests on a wide variety of Alaska topics. The governor already has great name recognition, as does his democratic challenger Byron Mallott.
Like Walker, Mallott is also an attorney and a lifelong Alaskan with a long, distinguished career involving politics and industry. He also supports Ballot Measure 1 and would bring Medicaid expansion to Alaska. Mallott was the mayor of Yakutat at age 22, he served under Governor William Egan, headed the SeaAlaska Corporation from 1982-92, headed the Alaska Federation of Natives, AFN, and the First Alaskan’s Institute, headed the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and currently directs the Alaska Air Group.
Seward City News does not endorse candidates.