ANCHORAGE — Candidates in Alaska’s three-way gubernatorial race wasted no time Wednesday launching their post-primary campaigns and welcoming their running mates for the general election in November.
Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and Democratic challenger Byron Mallott easily won their party nominations Tuesday, advancing to face independent candidate Bill Walker.
The 51-year-old Parnell planned a news conference Wednesday. His first order of business will be to welcome Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan as the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor and merge their campaigns, Parnell spokesman Luke Miller said.
Mallott, 71, was flying Wednesday from his hometown of Juneau to Anchorage, where his campaign will be run with Democratic lieutenant governor candidate State Sen. Hollis French.
Walker, who is running with independent lieutenant governor candidate Craig Fleener, was heading to Palmer to help set up his campaign booth at the Alaska State Fair, which opens Thursday.
“It’s a great way to meet a whole bunch of Alaskans,” the 63-year-old Walker said.
Political observers give Parnell the edge in the general election, even if Mallott and Walker pick off some of his support.
One longtime political watcher, Stephen Haycox, has said Mallott is the weakest of the three candidates and has run a lackluster campaign. Haycox, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Anchorage, believes Walker could prove formidable if he can sway a significant number of Democrats to cross over his way.
Walker, however, finished second behind Parnell in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial race. He bypassed the primary this time after opting to gather signatures to qualify as an unaffiliated candidate.
Mallott said he has been traveling around the state since October to reach out to all Alaskans, and he believes his campaign represents the only Democratic voice against what he sees as two Republican opponents.
“I think my campaign will be able to articulate clearly the differences between us,” he said, adding he has been campaigning every day, despite what some observers consider as low-profile early campaigns by all three front-runners. “I think that will be very telling in the end.”
Before the primary, the campaigns were largely overshadowed by contentious runs for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Begich. The gubernatorial runs also took a back seat to a referendum to repeal the state’s new petroleum tax system that was too close to call early Wednesday, but appeared to be failing, with absentee votes not yet counted.