Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a candidate for Alaska's governor, talks with a reporter at a Republican party held at the Aviator Hotel on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Marc Lester /Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Dunleavy wins GOP nomination for governor in Alaska

August 22, 2018 - 3:23 am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy won the Republican nomination for governor in Alaska, setting the stage for what's expected to be a three-way fight for the office this fall.

He topped a crowded field in Tuesday's GOP primary that included former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who had fashioned himself as the more experienced candidate.

Dunleavy in January left the state Senate after five years to focus on his campaign. While a senator, he clashed with GOP leaders over cuts to the annual check Alaskans receive from the state's oil-wealth fund and over what he saw as insufficient cuts to the state budget.

In the November general election Dunleavy will face former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and Gov. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent.

Walker opted to bypass the primaries and instead gather signatures to appear on the November ballot. Begich was unopposed in Tuesday's primary.

Begich said he plans to outwork his opponents and continue to travel the state to share his message with Alaskans.

"It's clear to me when you look at, in three-way race, a majority of Alaskans are looking for a change. The majority is not with the current governor. The majority of Alaskans are looking for something different," he said.

In the Democratic U.S. House primary, independent Alyse Galvin advanced to challenge GOP incumbent Rep. Don Young, 85, who is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House and easily won his primary.

The Alaska Democratic party changed its rules to let independents run in its primaries if they want the party's backing.

Galvin, an education advocate who has a reputation for being persistent, planned to greet supporters Tuesday night and get them ready for the challenge ahead.

The time between now and the general election "is not that long when you want to make a big change. I do intend to keep people charged. ... We are going to be hitting the ground running tomorrow."

Party primaries for governor and lieutenant governor determine who runs as a ticket in November. Candidates who bypass the primaries and instead gather signatures to appear on the general election ballot — as Walker opted to do — have a say in their running mates.

Walker flirted with running in the Democratic primary but decided not to when it appeared that Begich would run. Walker wanted to run with Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat. Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in 2014 in forming a so-called unity ticket with Mallott, which was backed by Democrats.

The next governor will face big issues, including crime and the economy, and decisions on the annual check that Alaskans receive from the state's oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy and Treadwell had positioned themselves as conservatives critical of a 2016 criminal justice overhaul and the state's approach to budgeting. Both supported the formula in state law for calculating the oil-wealth check, which has been ignored, first by the governor and then by legislators, for the past three years amid a budget deficit.

Dunleavy said he likes his chances against Walker and Begich.

"I feel we're on the right side of the issues," Dunleavy said Tuesday night. "I feel that Alaskans want to send somebody down to Juneau that they feel is going to fight for them." Juneau is the state capital.

Mary Bolin, an Anchorage Republican, voted for Dunleavy. She said he was "most in line with the values I hold and the way I would like to see things run."

Bolin said she supported Walker in 2014 and could possibly do so again in the general election, saying they share personal values. She said she wanted to hear more from the candidates before deciding who she thinks could best get the state out of its financial difficulties.

In east Anchorage, Bill Cody voted for Treadwell, whom he said made the most sense to him. Cody voted for Walker four years ago but didn't like the governor's handling of the Permanent Fund dividend.

"I don't think he listened to the people at all," Cody said, adding he hopes it hurts Walker at the polls. "I didn't even consider voting for him this time."

Cody's wife, Holly Cody, also is an undeclared voter, but she voted on the Democratic ballot. In the U.S. House race, she supported Democrat Dimitri Shein. She said she met Shein and he left a good impression.

"He's a family man," she said. But she's not holding out hope that anyone will defeat Young. "Don Young's been around forever. I think he's got a lot of support in Alaska."

The primaries also include a contested GOP race for lieutenant governor and state legislative races.

Of the candidates in the Democratic U.S. House race, Galvin and Shein, a Russian immigrant who became involved in politics after President Donald Trump's election, most actively campaigned.

Young faced a primary challenge from Thomas "John" Nelson and Jed Whittaker, who had limited resources and little name recognition.

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