On re-election bid, Gov. Walker says he’s made difficult decisions that he must own

Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott greet supporters gathered for the campaign kickoff event Oct. 22, 2017, at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s re-election campaign kicked off Sunday afternoon in Juneau. About 100 community members showed up to Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall for music, face painting and food, including a new ice cream flavor from Coppa made specially for the campaign, called Unity.

The independent governor took a few of questions from KTOO’s Adelyn Baxter about his outlook for the upcoming 2018 campaign.

BAXTER: So I wanted to ask you specifically about, in your 2016 State of the State address, you said, “I did not run for governor to keep the job, I ran to do the job.”

WALKER: Right.

BAXTER: And so I was wondering if when you were first running in 2014 if you had ever intended to seek re-election, if it was even in your frame of mind then?

WALKER: You know, it wasn’t on my mind, and it isn’t now in the decisions I make. Many times people will say, “Well we can’t do this because we have an election coming.” I don’t believe in that. I was hired for four years I’m going to work hard for a solid four years. And if I get an opportunity to continue on for another four years, I will be greatly honored. If I don’t, I’ll be greatly honored I served as the governor of Alaska for four years. I just don’t believe in running for three years and then just sort of gliding for a year. That’s not what I was hired for.

BAXTER: And what are the biggest changes this time around, this campaign season or upcoming campaign?

WALKER: Well, this time around I have made some difficult decisions and I need to own them. And I will own them. I mean, I don’t hide from anything I’ve done. And so what’s different for me now, you know when I began running, the first poll that was taken I had a name recognition of 2 percent. And I was pretty excited about 2 percent, “Hey that’s … you know!” So I had a long ways to go. Now that’s not the issue anymore. The issue is I need to talk about what I’m going to do and I also need to justify the decisions I’ve made.

So, you know for me, I can, whatever happens on election or re-election, I need to live the rest of my life living with the decision I’ve made. And I can do that. It’s the decision I didn’t make that I don’t want to worry about. I don’t want to ever look back and go, “You know, I didn’t do this because I was worried about that. I didn’t do this …” No. I’m all in. And so that’s not a politically wise thing to do, I understand that. But I would much rather lose fighting for Alaska every day than be very careful and increase my chances by not doing this. I just don’t believe in that. I think that’s how we got into the situation we’re in right now, the fiscal situation. People so focused on their next election. It’s the next generation we need to focus on, not the next election.

BAXTER: And so was the decision to run again as an independent in the next election an obvious one, given the success last time?

WALKER: It is. That’s how we got here and it feels very comfortable because I can draw from all different sides of the aisle for input. I’ve never felt that any particular party had a monopoly on good ideas. I think everybody should have an equal say on that. So we, uh, foster that. We encourage that.

BAXTER: And has there been any discussion given the recent ruling about open primaries and the Democratic primary to running in that primary?

WALKER: You know, we haven’t had any discussion about that. Of course we’re not involved in it at all because of the obvious conflict (of interest). So we haven’t had any discussions about that and as I stand here today I’m not, uh — we’re doing it the way we did it last time and until that changes we’ll keep doing that.

BAXTER: OK. And final thoughts on how this event went?

WALKER: I thought it went very well. I was very, very pleased with it. Juneau had been a big part of our campaign last time and it certainly will be this time. So on a Sunday afternoon with a lot of things competing, with the Seahawks football game going on and the Juneau Symphony, you know, having events today, I was very, very pleased with the turnout. Very happy.