Alaska Gov. Bill Walker dropped his re-election bid Friday, three days after the sudden resignation of his lieutenant governor over what Walker described as an inappropriate overture toward a woman. Walker's announcement, made at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage shortly before he was to participate in a debate, was met with gasps and cries of "No!" from the audience, per the AP. "'Alaska First' is and cannot be just a campaign slogan," he said. With less than three weeks until the election, Walker, an independent, said it became clear he couldn't win a three-way race against Republican former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and Democratic former US Sen. Mark Begich. Alaskans deserve a competitive race, "and Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy," he said.
Walker, a former Republican and the only independent governor in the country, told reporters he doesn't agree with Begich on many things, but he said Begich would be better for Alaska than Dunleavy. Throughout the campaign, some Democrats and independents worried Walker and Begich would split the vote, giving the election to Dunleavy. Walker was elected in 2014 with Democratic support. Walker's campaign manager earlier this week said Walker and Begich had been in talks about a "path forward for Alaska" but wouldn't elaborate. On Thursday, they both sought to downplay any suggestions of a potential deal ahead of the Nov. 6 election. Walker was showered with praise and hugs by conference attendees after his announcement, and the debate went on without him. Begich called Walker's action courageous; Dunleavy didn't acknowledge it in his opening statements. (Walker hasn't been the most popular governor.)