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This November, for the first time since Alaska became a state, the ballot won't include a Democratic candidate for governor. The Democrats had a candidate, Byron Mallott, but around Labor Day, he dropped out — in order to sign up as a running mate for a non-partisan candidate named Bill Walker.
As part of the deal with the Democrats, Walker changed his voter registration from "Republican" to "undeclared." At a recent candidate debate, he emphasized his desire to get past party labels. "My — OUR administration will be not bipartisan, it will be NO-partisan," Walker said. "We're going to do what's best for Alaska, not necessarily what's best for one party or another party."
The Walker-Mallott ticket would rather campaign on budget issues. State spending has become a hot topic, because the state relies so heavily on oil money — and Alaska's oil production is in a long-term decline. Under Parnell, the state has run deficits, and has had to dip into reserve funds. Walker campaign aide Ron Clarke says his candidate is trying to restore a sense of realism about the state's long-term fiscal health. "We've now raised more than an entire generation of people that pay no state-wide taxes and get free money every October, yet the state services keep coming," Clarke says. "The roads get plowed, the streets get paved, all this stuff happens, I don't know, maybe people think it's done by elves in the night."