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Alaska Gov. Bill Walker suspends campaign, endorses Democrat Mark Begich

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker speaks at a 2015 press conference in Anchorage.

AP

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker suspended his re-election campaign Friday, and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich. Walker, a former Republican turned independent, made his announcement at the beginning of a candidate forum, according to the Anchorage Daily News. He then posted a statement on Instagram saying he was suspending his campaign. 

Walker's lieutenant governor and running mate, Byron Mallott, resigned from his position and the campaign earlier this week, because he made unspecified inappropriate comments to a woman.

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Dear Alaskans, I ran for re-election because I still believe that, more than anything else, Alaska deserves integrity, honesty, and courage. Alaska First is, and cannot only be, a campaign slogan. When I said I ran for governor to do the job, not make the decisions to keep the job, I meant exactly what I said. Every decision I have made as your governor, I have made on the basis of what I believe is best for Alaska. With that said, effective today, I am suspending my campaign for re-election as Governor. With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election. But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race. This week I have talked to many Alaskans to determine whether I or Mark Begich had a better chance of running a competitive race against Mike Dunleavy. The determination was made that, at this point, Begich has the better odds. Alaskans deserve a competitive race. Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy, whose record and campaign rhetoric indicate he will: eliminate Medicaid Expansion that has provided healthcare access to 44,000 Alaskans, created jobs and brought $1 billion federal dollars into the Alaskan economy while decreasing State healthcare expenditures by $16 million, kept hospitals from closing, and saved lives; defund the Alaska LNG Gasline project that has made historic progress, will create 12,000 high paying construction jobs, 88,000 direct and indirect jobs and deliver low cost energy to our homes and businesses; undo the bipartisan approved sustainable fiscal plan that has resulted in fiscal stability, significantly reduced the deficit, improved our credit rating and preserved the PFD program into perpetuity; cause our most vulnerable to suffer the brunt of the additional $1 billion in budget cuts he vows to make to education, rural Alaska and those receiving healthcare. (Please see the rest of the speech in comments section)

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In his post, Walker said that he was "confident" he could win the race if given more time. However, with only 18 days before Election Day and absentee ballots mailed, Walker said "we cannot win a three-way race" in the time remaining. Walker, an independent, was facing Republican Mike Dunleavy and Begich.

Walker said that he opposed Dunleavy's candidacy because the Republican candidate exposed expansion of Medicaid in the state, which Walker had done under the Affordable Care Act. He also said that Dunleavy would not be as receptive to the concerns of Alaskan natives.

"Yesterday, I apologized on behalf of the State of Alaska for the wrongs committed against the Alaska Native people throughout our history, because I believed that was best for Alaska," Walker said. "My expectation is that this work critical to the healing of historical trauma and unifying all Alaskans will be undone in a Dunleavy administration.

He added that while he had differences with Begich, he believed "his stance on the important issues I have listed above more closely align with my priorities for Alaska."

"This is not the first difficult decision I have made this week, but it is one I know I must make," Walker said.

Walker currently has low approval ratings, with only 25 percent of Alaskans approving of his performance as governor, according to Morning Consult.

  • Grace Segers

    Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.