Walker, Fleener may need to keep bids separate

JUNEAU — Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and lieutenant governor hopeful Craig Fleener must maintain separate campaigns until after the 2014 primary, according to a draft advisory opinion for the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The commission will determine whether to approve the draft written by an associate attorney and is scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday.

Walker and Fleener plan to run as independents on the same ticket. Each must gather just over 3,000 signatures to qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot.

Party affiliation plays into the issue. In Alaska, candidates of the same political party running for governor and lieutenant governor can merge their campaigns after their primary. The draft opinion says that the state regulation at issue is silent on independent candidates but that allowing Walker and Fleener to team up before the primary could create an unfair advantage over party candidates.

The campaign's legal adviser, Lindsay Hobson, sought guidance from the commission earlier this month. Because nominating petitions ask candidates to identify their running mates, Hobson says neither Walker nor Fleener can move forward and appear on the ballot without the other.

Hobson, in her request for a formal opinion, said Walker's campaign was rebranded to incorporate Fleener as a running mate. She said that the campaigns were being kept separate to accept donations but that allowing supporters to write checks to the campaign as a whole would make sense.

The draft concludes that Walker and Fleener can unite their campaigns after the August primary, assuming they gather the required signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Walker finished second in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary to Gov. Sean Parnell but announced earlier this year that he would run as an independent.

Parnell is seeking re-election, and the state Democratic Party has endorsed Byron Mallott for governor.

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