Democrat, ex-Republican join forces in AK gubernatorial ticket - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Democrat, ex-Republican join forces in AK gubernatorial ticket

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The Alaska Democratic Party's central committee voted 89 to 2 late on Labor Day to bless the union. (Source: KTUU/CNN) The Alaska Democratic Party's central committee voted 89 to 2 late on Labor Day to bless the union. (Source: KTUU/CNN)

ANCHORAGE, AK (KTUU/CNN) - The announcement Tuesday was a first in Alaska politics.

A Democrat and an ex-Republican are running together for the state's two highest offices.

Bill Walker and Byron Mallott officially announced Tuesday they will be running on a so-called 'unity' ticket. Walker and Mallott said they have a lot in common.

"We're going to chart some new waters in Alaska in the way in our relationship the way we're going to work together," Walker said.

How did this happen? Walker says it began at the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference, when Mallott asked his opponent to sing with him on stage.

"I think you said you only know one song, You Are My Sunshine," Walker said. "I know that one, too. But when he went to do this he came over to me and said, 'Come and join me. I'd be honored if you'd join me on stage.' He introduced me, I'm running against this guy. I knew at that moment there's something very special about this guy, about Byron."

At that time, poll numbers showed Sean Parnell easily winning re-election when pitted against either Byron Mallott or Bill Walker.

"In my heart, I knew that I could not continue my campaign," Mallott said.

What role might unions have played in forging the partnership?

Union head Vince Beltrami says the AFL-CIO spoke with both candidates throughout their primary campaigns.

"They came to our convention in Fairbanks two weeks ago, and we did have discussions with both of them throughout over the last several … and we did a little polling on our own as well," Beltrami said. "And it indicated the best chance of success was in a heads up race and with Byron joining bill on the ticket."

It wasn't until this past weekend when talks between Mallott and Walker gained steam. Mallott agreed to run as Walker's lieutenant governor.

The Alaska Democratic Party's central committee voted 89 to 2 late on Labor Day to bless the union.

Walker changed his party affiliation Tuesday from registered Republican to undeclared, finalizing the team's position on the November ballot

We are in a crisis in Alaska," Walker said. "That's what brings us both to do this. You're not looking at a couple of career politicians who are saying, 'Now let's do this and run for this office and that office.' That's not what we're doing."

The firefighters union wasted no time in declaring its support for the newly formed team - voting even before the merger was publicly announced.

"Yes, we unanimously voted yesterday to endorse the ticket," Tom Wescott of Alaska Professional Firefighters said.

The AFL-CIO's endorsement was officially expected later this week, but Beltrami is already hinting at what that decision may be. The AFL-CIO represents 60,000 union members statewide.

While the firefighters union has already supported the ticket, the statewide group of unions was set to vote on the endorsement Thursday afternoon.

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