Alaska Gov. Bill Walker suspended his re-election campaign Friday night with less than three weeks to go before election day.
In a statement, Walker expressed concerns that he and Lieutenant Gov. Valerie Davidson would not win the emerging three-way race for the governor's seat.
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"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," Walker wrote in an Instagram post Friday night. "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."
The fact that absentee voting has already begun and early voting begins on Monday means Walker's name will likely remain on the ballot.
Walker, an independent, endorsed Democratic nominee Mark Begich, a former US senator, citing the way Begich's priorities "more closely align" with his than do those of Republican nominee Michael Dunleavy.
"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," Walker wrote.
"On balance, it is my belief that despite my many differences with Mark Begich, his stance on the important issues ... more closely align with my priorities for Alaska," he later added.
Walker's lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, resigned Tuesday over "inappropriate comments" that have remained largely unexplained.
Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, thanked Walker for "putting Alaska first once again."
"Despite the fact that the Democratic Party did not endorse his candidacy this time, we will always be proud of our support of him in 2014 when we all put Alaska first," Steinau said in a statement. "We are also proud of him now for putting Alaska first once again, and stepping aside for the greater good. Bill Walker has said himself that he has never shied away from making tough decisions, and surely this was among the toughest he has had to make as governor."
The governors associations from both parties attempted to spin the announcement as a positive for their candidates, with the Democratic Governors Association saying Walker's decision should tip the race to Begich and the Republican Governors Association slamming it as a "political charade" by Begich and Walker.
"Bill Walker's announcement -- only three days before early voting begins -- only reinforces why Alaska urgently needs change," said RGA communications director Jon Thompson in a statement. "At a time when Alaska faces enormous challenges, Mark Begich and Bill Walker have been more focused on protecting their own power and their shared failed liberal agenda than actually addressing these critical issues. Alaskans deserve better than this political charade by Mark Begich and Bill Walker."
"This is a game changer in the Alaska Governor's race. This race immediately becomes a tossup, open-seat race between a popular Democrat in Mark Begich and a fringe Republican in Mike Dunleavy," said Elizabeth Pearson, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.