FAIRBANKS — Craig Fleener, who resigned as deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last week, on Monday said he is seeking to run for lieutenant governor in the 2014 election with independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker.
Fleener, originally from Fort Yukon, announced his election bid Monday afternoon in Fairbanks at the headquarters of Doyon Ltd., the regional for-profit Native corporation for Interior Alaska.
“I am Alaskan, I am Athabascan, I am Gwich’in, I am a warrior, I’m a Marine Corps veteran, I’m an Alaska Guardsman, I’m a biologist, I’m a firefighter, I’m a fur buyer, I’m an aircraft mechanic and I’m even a janitor,” Fleener said, with his family surrounding him. “I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a Christian, I’m a moose hunter and wood cutter. I’m a problem solver, I’m your neighbor, I’m a uniter and my ultimate goal is to bring Alaskans together to solve the problems that face us all.”
Walker, an Anchorage attorney, said Fleener and he will make a well-rounded ticket.
“A lot of my background has been in oil and gas, and it was brought to my attention that there are a lot of issues that are equal or broader than that,” Walker said. “It’s appropriate to find someone who has a different focus and passion than I do.”
Walker, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, announced his intention to take on Gov. Sean Parnell as an independent candidate earlier this year. He has largely focused on oil and gas issues, including Parnell’s oil tax reform bill. Walker said he met the 46-year-old Fleener during recent campaigning.
Fleener worked in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game since 2008, where he started as the director of the Division of Subsistence. He said his focus is on subsistence, management of natural resources and other issues facing Alaska Native communities. He was appointed to the Alaska Board of Game in 2008 by former Gov. Sarah Palin, but served less than a year before joining the department as an employee.
In regard to subsistence and natural resource management, he said he would like to see more cooperation between the state, private land owners and local communities to ensure that there are resources for everyone.
“We wouldn’t want to introduce a project that’s not important to somebody. We want to work with communities throughout the state and see what’s important to them and develop those types of projects,” he said. “If we go forward with that in mind, we can find a lot of progress.”
Fleener worked for the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments in Fort Yukon before joining the state. He joined the Marine Corps in 1986 and the Alaska Air National Guard in 1991, where he is a major and a senior intelligence officer.
Fleener, who on Monday wore a beaded vest made by his grandmother, is not the only Alaska Native candidate in the race for a top state office. Byron Mallott, a familiar face in Alaska politics from Southeast Alaska, announced his intention to run for governor in September and is expected to file official paperwork to run as a Democrat Tuesday.
Fleener said he was pleased to have Mallott in the race, saying that too few Alaska Natives are active in Alaska politics.
“I’m all about getting involved. I think it affects the race in a terrific way. There should be more Alaska Natives that get involved,” he said. “I think we’re terribly underrepresented when it comes to stepping into politics.”
Other candidates for top state offices have been active in Fairbanks, and Gov. Sean Parnell announced his re-election bid at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, but Fleener is the first candidate who can call the Interior home.
“I am an Interior boy. I might be from about 150 miles north of here, but this is pretty close,” he said. “These are my friends and these are my people. I’m going to work with everybody, but there’s no place like home.”
Both candidates will have to gather 3,017 signatures to appear on the November 2014 ballot.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.