Bill Walker (American politician)
|11th Governor of Alaska|
December 1, 2014 – December 3, 2018
|Preceded by||Sean Parnell|
|Succeeded by||Mike Dunleavy|
|Mayor of Valdez|
|Preceded by||Mac MacDonald|
|Succeeded by||Stephen McAlpine|
William Martin Walker
April 16, 1951
Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.
|Political party||Independent (2014–present)|
|Residence||Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.|
|Education||Lewis and Clark College (B.S.)|
University of Puget Sound (J.D.)
William Martin Walker (born April 16, 1951) is an American attorney and politician who served as the 11th governor of Alaska, from 2014 to 2018. He is the second governor of Alaska born in the state after William A. Egan (1959–1966 and 1970–1974).
Walker was born in Fairbanks to Frances (Park) and businessman Ed Walker; he was raised in Delta Junction and Valdez, Alaska. He obtained a law degree and served as mayor, city councilor, and city attorney for Valdez, and as general counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. Walker ran for governor of Alaska in the Republican Party primary election in 2010, losing to incumbent Sean Parnell.
Walker ran as an Independent in the 2014 election, merging his campaign with that of Democratic nominee Byron Mallott, who became Walker's running mate. Both candidates' prior respective running mates withdrew from the race and the Walker/Mallott ticket defeated Parnell and his running mate, former Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan. Walker ran for reelection in 2018, but three days after the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Mallott and amid low polling numbers he dropped out of the race on October 19 and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.
Early life and career
Walker was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and raised in the small, rural interior city of Delta Junction and the port of Valdez on Prince William Sound. He was the fourth child of Alaskan pioneers Frances (Park) and Ed Walker. During World War II, Ed was an Alaskan Scout with Castner's Cutthroats in the Aleutian Islands and Frances worked on the Alaska-Canadian Highway. During the 1964 Alaska earthquake, which severely damaged Valdez, the family lost most of their personal and business possessions. At the age of 12, Walker became a janitor to help his family. Walker worked in his family's construction business as a carpenter, laborer, and teamster on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which helped him pay for his education.
Walker graduated from Valdez High School in 1969 and received his B.S. in Business Management from Lewis & Clark College in 1973 and his J.D. from the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University School of Law) in 1983. He and his wife owned a law firm that focused on municipal and oil and gas law. From 1977 to 1979 he served in the Valdez city council, as city attorney for Valdez, and as general counsel for the Alaska Gasoline Port Authority. He later was elected mayor of Valdez, serving from 1979 through 1980. At 27, he was Valdez's youngest mayor.
Governor of Alaska
Walker challenged incumbent Governor Sean Parnell as well as Gerald L. Heikes, Merica Hlatcu, Sam Little, and Ralph Samuels in the Republican Party primary election on August 24, 2010. Walker finished second, with 33.95% of the vote, while Parnell won the nomination with 49.49%. The general election was held on November 2, 2010 and Parnell defeated his Democratic opponent, Ethan Berkowitz.
In 2013, Walker announced his intention to run in the 2014 gubernatorial election as a Republican. Later that year, he decided to run as a nonpartisan candidate, taking the advice and encouragement he had received from former Alaska governor Wally Hickel prior to his 2010 campaign.
Walker selected Craig Fleener, a former Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket. He campaigned on a centrist platform, mixing traditionally conservative and liberal positions. Walker opposed the construction of the Pebble Mine and acknowledged the existence of climate change and the need to adopt energy policies to help mitigate its harmful effects, but supported increasing oil and gas pipeline capacities and new drilling for petroleum in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also supported gun rights, a degree of state sovereignty for Alaska, and the Medicaid expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
On September 2, 2014, Walker held a press conference with Byron Mallott, the Democratic nominee for governor, announcing that they would merge their campaigns, with Mallott replacing Fleener as his running mate. Mallott's Democratic running mate, attorney and State Senator Hollis French, also stepped aside, leaving no official Democratic candidate in the election. Before their announcement the merger was met with resistance from the Alaska Republican Party, but it was ruled valid by the Alaska Supreme Court.
Walker led in polls taken weeks before the November 4 general election. Parnell was widely criticized for his support of billions in unpopular tax reductions for the petrochemical industry and the development of a scandal featuring five years of alleged cover-ups of rampant sexual abuse, cronyism, corruption and whistleblower suppression in the Alaska National Guard, for which Parnell served as Commander in Chief. Following Election Day, the race was considered too close to call. On November 7, Walker and Mallott held a 3,165-vote lead. On November 14, after Walker and Mallott extended their lead to 4,634 votes, media outlets called the race. Two days later, Parnell conceded.
Walker took the oath of office on December 1, 2014. He faced a Republican-controlled legislature, but the Republican majorities were not enough to override a gubernatorial veto. With the Republican legislature opposed to Walker's attempts to expand Medicaid, Walker decided to use his executive authority to do so.
As governor, Walker has attended many events across Alaska, such as the Annual Governor's Picnic which took place in Fairbanks at Pioneer Park on Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Anchorage at Delaney Park Strip on Saturday, August 1, 2015, and in Juneau at the University of Alaska Southeast on August 14, 2015. He also flew into Sitka after seven landslides devastated the town, causing extensive damage and killing three. He was able to secure $1 million to help in the recovery.
Walker signed the buyout bill for TransCanada's quarter share in the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (AKLNG) project on November 5, 2015. Alaska's share of the project will cost the state $12 to $18 billion to construct in return for the one-quarter share for what it produces, which estimates that the state will make $1 to $1.2 billion per year when gas starts flowing. The project is expected to open up around 10,000 construction jobs if work begins in the 2020s as is planned.
Due to the low oil prices in 2015, however, Alaska anticipated a $4 billion annual deficit. Budget cuts and raised taxes have been proposed to help support reconciling this gap. Walker hoped to release his budget for fiscal year 2016 by December 15, 2015. In December 2015, Walker proposed reinstating a statewide income tax as well as reducing annual payments to qualified state residents from the Alaska Permanent Fund as a means of filling a $3.2 billion gap in the state's budget.
In September 2018, the office of Anchorage District Attorney Richard K. Allen entered into a controversial plea bargain in the case of a former FAA air traffic controller who allegedly kidnapped a native Alaskan woman in the middle of the day from a gas station, choked her until she passed out and then masturbated over her. In response to citizen outrage at the reduced sentence, Walker issued a statement saying the sentence was insufficient and that he wanted to toughen the law. He said he would propose legislation that makes unwanted contact with semen a sex crime.
Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott resigned on October 16, 2018, citing "inappropriate comments," which he and Walker did not detail. A new lieutenant governor, Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson, was sworn in to replace Mallott. Three days later, Walker announced that he was suspending his campaign, and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich, for governor.
Before becoming governor and moving to Juneau, Walker and his wife Donna resided in Anchorage. As of 2017, the couple had two sons, two daughters, and five grandchildren. He enjoys fishing, downhill skiing, snow-machining, boating, camping, and taking his grandchildren ice skating.
|Republican||Sean Parnell (inc.)||54,125||49.49|
|Republican||Gerald L. Heikes||460||0.40|
|Independent||Bill Walker/Byron Mallott||134,658||48.1%||+48.1%|
|Republican||Sean Parnell (inc.)/Dan Sullivan||128,435||45.9%||-13.22%|
|Libertarian||Carolyn Clift/Andrew C. Lee||8,985||3.21%||+2.16%|
|Constitution||J. R. Myers/Maria Rensel||6,987||2.5%||+2.5%|
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|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Alaska
| Governor of Alaska