Plaintiff says they won't appeal ballot lawsuit ruling

ANCHORAGE — The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two Alaska gubernatorial candidates will not appeal a judge’s ruling that an emergency order allowing the ticket was valid, he said Monday.

Plaintiff Steve Strait said, however, that state lawmakers should enact a permanent regulation to address a legal “train wreck” — the label used by Superior Court Judge John Suddock in describing a gap in Alaska election statutes. Suddock sided with the state on Friday.

The Sept. 2 emergency order was issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who was named in the lawsuit along with elections director Gail Fenumiai. The order paved the way for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott to join campaigns with independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor after their lieutenant governor candidates withdrew from their races.

The new ticket is deemed a stronger challenge to Republican incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking his second full term in office. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is Parnell’s running mate.

The state maintained that Alaska statutes are silent on how to fill vacancies left by the withdrawal of a no-party candidate. The state argued that invalidating the order would derail the November election and disenfranchise voters, saying more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out.

The case was expected to be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court by either side that lost.

Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair who filed the lawsuit Sept. 17, said he decided not to appeal for two reasons. One is the sheer expense of taking the case to the next level. The other is that Oct. 9 would be the earliest the high court could schedule oral arguments. That was too close to the Nov. 4 election, Strait said.

“What do (we) achieve if we’re successful at this point?” he said. “And then it’s yet a bigger train wreck, in my opinion.”

The lawsuit is an “example of partisan politics at its worst,” Walker, whose campaign intervened on behalf of the state, said in a statement Monday.

“Byron and I look forward to a nonpartisan administration where party platforms will no longer impede productivity in Alaska,” Walker said. “There are so many critical issues facing the state such as the fiscal and energy crises. We will only solve these problems when we work together.”

Treadwell said his office is proposing to make the emergency regulation permanent to address the gap in the law. Public comments are now being taken.

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