Homer voters worry about Begich and Walker splitting the moderate vote
The lone candidate running for governor in this year’s Democratic primary stopped in Homer Thursday. Former U.S. Senator and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich ended the day with a meet and greet at a local bar. Some Homer voters are concerned that Begich and Gov. Bill Walker might split the moderate vote in the general election, paving the way to victory for former Republican state Senator Mike Dunleavy.
Begich entered the race just before the June 1 deadline. That prompted incumbent Gov. Walker, who planned to run in the Democratic primary, to collect signatures and head straight to the general election.
That was a concern for some voters during a meet and greet at Alice’s Champaign Palace Thursday. When asked whether he would pull out of the race if Walker had an edge leading up November’s vote, Begich responded that he’s been in this situation before, specifically when he ran for Anchorage mayor in 2003.
“George Wuerch, Republican, Rick Mystrom, moderate, me. I got in two days out. We were all bunched together polling wise,” Begich recalled. “I also knew on Mystrom’s vote, a chunk of them were my supporters. I had to make my case. I had to get out there. I had nine weeks to do it.”
Begich won that race, and he told Homer voters that he can do it again without risking a Dunleavy victory.
“I understand the angst over Dunlevy. I have no interest in ensuring that Dunleavy is the next governor, no interest,” he added.
Recent polls show Dunleavy in the lead in a three-way race, with Begich and Walker trading places for third and second. When it comes to fundraising, Begich is behind both Dunleavy and Walker.
Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s campaign has raised the most and has roughly $445,000 on hand as of last week. Dunleavy and an independent expenditure group supporting him have spent roughly $612,000. Combined, both have about $42,000 on hand.
Begich has raised $130,000 since jumping into the race and his campaign has spent about $40,000. He told voters despite Walker and Dunleavy outspending his campaign, he’s still in a position to win.
“We’ve spent literally like $10. It’s like $20,000 we’ve spent,” he told voters Thursday. “We are in second or first position. That is a great position to start from.”
Something that might split votes between Walker and Begich are their plans to solve the state’s fiscal gap, specifically how the permanent fund is used to pay for state government.
The Legislature approved increasing the percentage drawn from the Permeant Fund earnings reserve, the portion of the fund used to pay for PFDs, in order to help close the majority of the state’s fiscal gap.
Lawmakers did not specify how much of that money can be spent on government and how much would go towards paying dividends. Walker supported the move, but Begich wants a 50-50 split to be defined in the state’s constitution.
“So you have a percent going to a dividend and the balance every year going to education, constitutionally guarantee them both,” he said. “Get them off the table because education is always used at the end of the years as a bargaining chip.”
Begich said ending the political football game over education funding and PFDs would allow the Legislature to focus on closing the remainder of the budget gap, though he did not offer up a direct plan on how to do so.
When asked about an income tax, something Walker has supported in the past, Begich did not say whether he supported any broad-based tax, but he did criticize Walker’s 2017 head-tax proposal, saying it was regressive.
Walker has shifted his stance on taxes somewhat, telling KBBI in an interview earlier this year that relying on increasing oil prices might be his preferred option instead of new taxes, a stance favored by many Senate Republicans.