Daily News-Miner: “Gov. Bill Walker vs. Mark Begich”

 In News

FAIRBANKS — I’m writing this out of frustration with Gov. Bill Walker. And full disclosure, I spent 10 weeks volunteering almost full time on Bill Walker’s 2014 campaign. I will admit that although I was aware that Walker was a life-long Republican, much of my motivation was driven by my overwhelming desire to get rid of then-Gov. Sean Parnell. I felt that Walker would at least be better than Parnell. And considering he was elected with independent and progressive votes, he would hopefully champion some of our issues.

First let’s be clear, Walker was dealt a horrible hand. A huge dive in oil prices resulting in massive deficits, I get that. So, he cut the permanent fund dividend in half, cut the heck out of the budget and proposed a lot of new taxes. I have no problem with that, schools, roads, bridges, funding for a dozen agencies etc. Civilization costs money.

But what really chafes me is at a time when he’s asking residents to sacrifice, he never stood up to the oil giants and demanded that they pay their share. These oil giants took 9 to 13 billion dollars a year of Alaska’s oil during his time in office. When you take into account the infrastructure tax credits that the state pays them, there were several years that Alaska was literally paying these multinational corporations to take our oil. Walker should have raised holy hell. Even former Gov. Sarah Palin told the big three they were going to pay more, and they did.

Trump’s recent extreme conservative Supreme Court pick makes Walker’s longstanding anti-choice position on a woman’s right to control her own body a real and gathering threat. Mark Begich is a life long champion of a women’s right to choose. For many Alaskans this issue cannot be overstated.

Another disappointment was Walker’s pledge not to get involved in the culture wars. Great, but what happened? Soon after the election, Walker’s administration joined eight other deep-south red states in a suit opposing marriage equality.

A huge frustration has been Walker’s wildlife policies. There has been little difference between Parnell and Walker when it comes to wildlife. One example, and there are many, is Walker allowing a handful of hunters and trappers to lure Denali’s iconic wolves and bears out of the park with bait and kill them. This is one of the great scandals in Alaska. Those wolves are worth a thousand times more alive than dead. And yet, even as wolf numbers plunged and viewership in Denali went from 50 percent to 4 percent, Walker dithered.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly passed a resolution urging the governor to act; a national petition urging protection for the wolves with 365,000 signatures was delivered. Statewide, there were 75 letters to the editor, a dozen editorials. Alaska’s State House even passed a bill to protect the Denali wolves.

Those animals are a world-class resource. I feel confident that over 80 percent of those who voted for Walker hate what’s happening there. And yet, with all that cover, Walker sat there and did nothing. Mark Begich has already announced he will move to protect Denali’s wolves and bears.

I’m not saying Walker is all bad, he deserves some credit for opposing Pebble Mine, but that was not much of a lift. The project was so destructive even Trump’s hit man Scott Pruitt opposed Pebble. Mark Begich has gone father, stating he will place state lands off limits to Pebble, completely killing the project.

Walker did accept federal money for Medicaid, but then, who’s not going to take free money. Again, without any effort to push the oil companies, the state is hamstrung.

In another painful disappointment Bill Walker is opposing the Stand For Salmon ballot initiative, throwing his lot in with Donlin Mine and big oil against our salmon. Begich is supporting the fishermen.

And finally, I’m aware that some hold resentment toward Begich for jumping into the Democratic primary late and splitting the vote. Hold on there.

Primaries are specifically designed to avoid splitting the vote.

Bill Walker announced he was running in the Democratic primary. Had he followed through there would have been a good fight, a single winner and a unified base. What happened? When Begich announced, Walker was the one who pulled out of the primary, causing the split.

So Walker was and is definitely better than Sean Parnell, but that’s about all. The bottom line is Walker doesn’t even come close to deserving the independent or progressive vote.

Vote Mark Begich.

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