JUNEAU, Alaska — Byron Mallott sees running for governor, in a way, as part of his journey as an Alaskan.
In an interview before launching his gubernatorial bid, Mallott said he initially dismissed suggestions he run. But he says after deliberating, he saw a run as a progression of a life spent in the state.
However, the campaign "isn't about me," he said. "It's about the future of our state, the kind of place we can be."
The 70-year-old was born in Yakutat and once served as mayor there before going to work for then-Gov. Bill Egan as an aide on local-government issues. He briefly served as mayor of Juneau, beginning in 1994, before taking over as executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., in 1995. His resume also includes time serving as president of the Alaska Federation of Natives and chairman of Sealaska Corp. He currently serves on Sealaska's board of directors.
Mallott officially launched his campaign as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Yakutat on Tuesday and planned a rally for Anchorage on Wednesday. Democratic state Sens. Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage have both said they're exploring a run for the seat currently held by Republican Sean Parnell. Lesser-known candidates Gerald L. Heikes and Phil Stoddard also plan to run, Heikes as a Republican and Stoddard as a Democrat. Bill Walker, who finished second to Parnell in 2010 GOP primary, plans to run as an unaffiliated candidate.
Mallott supported Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign after her upset in the 2010 GOP primary to tea party-supported Joe Miller. Mallott said over the years he has supported Democratic, Republican and independent candidates and said he was proud to be part of the Murkowski write-in bid, seeing that as a "uniquely Alaskan response to a circumstance that had instantly troubled and even shocked many Alaskans." For part of his life, he also was not affiliated with a party.
But, "my core principles, my core values, my core impulses have been of the progressive kind that I think are most shared by the Democratic party, at least in terms of an institutional focus." He said he is a Democrat and "will do everything I can to advance the policy, the philosophical interests of that party," while also recognizing that a governor needs to have "broad diversity" in his or her administration.
He did not say whether he supported the oil tax overhaul championed by Parnell that passed during the last legislative session but said the immediate launch of a referendum showed him that "Alaskans are troubled." He said he wants to talk to Alaskans about the law and its impact, as well as how best to try to diversify the state's economy.
He said Alaska, for all the opportunities it has and progress that's been made, still has communities "living in third-world conditions," and residents, in urban and rural areas, struggling to afford a decent life. He said a governor should be focused on those kinds of issues and how best to address them.
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