Gov. Walker Signs Education Bills

Gov. Bill Walker address the crowd before signing a series of education bills at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Annual All Teacher Welcome Back and In-Service Day Aug. 10, 2018, in the Hering Auditorium at Lathrop High School. Eric Engman/News-Miner file photo

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has decided to return to politics and has chosen Juneau lawyer Heidi Drygas to be his running mate in the 2022 governor’s race.

The pair — both were born in Fairbanks — previously worked together when Drygas was Walker’s labor commissioner from 2014-2018.

Walker said that people who did not support him in the past have reached out and asked him to run for governor. The 70-year-old, who resides in Anchorage, is dissatisfied with the current state of Alaska politics.

“I have never seen so much litigation between the state of Alaska and different organizations,” Walker said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We seem to make lots of headlines and no headway.”

If elected, Walker would work on communication and improving relationships with stakeholders, he said.

He filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Monday to run in the 2022 Alaska gubernatorial primary, which is on Aug. 16. Under new voter-approved rules, a nonpartisan top four primary is planned whereby the top four vote getters will advance to the General Election on Nov. 8 regardless of political affiliation.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy filed a letter of intent on Friday as he seeks a second term.

Walker ran for governor in 2010 but lost to Gov. Sean Parnell in the GOP primary. He ran as an independent in 2014 and joined with Democrat Byron Mallott to form a self-proclaimed “unity ticket.”

After serving one term, Walker made a bid for reelection and was in a tense three-way race when he abruptly ended his campaign a few weeks before Election Day amid a #metoo scandal involving Mallot, who has since died.

Walker, a lawyer, has stepped away from practicing law in recent years and has spent his time teaching and using his carpentry skills to improve various properties, he said. He called it “construction therapy.”

One of Walker’s top priorities for Alaska is fiscal stability, he said, and that is going to involve new revenues to the state. Walker did not specify but said the money will come from multiple sources.

“Everybody needs to put a little something in the offering plate when it goes by,” he said.

Drygas, 43, said that Walker reached out to her this last spring and asked her to be his running mate. She took her time talking with her family and deciding. She is registered to vote as non-partisan, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

“I was surprised. I was honored. I know how the governor operates. He is very thoughtful,” Drygas said. “I am excited to do what I can along with Bill to try to restore some integrity and honesty and trust with government .”

Dunleavy, a Republican, was a state senator when he earned 51.4% of the vote, or 145,631 votes, defeating Democrat and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who drew 44.4% or 125,739 votes, in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Walker’s name still appeared on the ballot and he drew 2% of votes, while Libertarian William Toien drew 1%.

Toien has also filed with the Alaska Division of Elections to run again for governor in 2022.

A Recall Dunleavy campaign appears to still be active. According to the campaign website, almost 60,000 signatures have been gathered of the more than 70,000 signatures needed and a message line remains active.

The website signature counter has not been updated since Apr. 26, 2021, and multiple messages have not been returned.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.