Palin goes rogue with endorsement
Backs successor’s foe
Sarah Palin announced last week that her successor as Alaska governor isn’t getting her vote, throwing another wild card into an already tumultuous gubernatorial race.
At a reception at her home in Wasilla, Alaska, Mrs. Palin said that she’s endorsing independent candidate Bill Walker and his running mate, Democrat Byron Mallott — not Gov. Sean Parnell — because she “trust[s] them to develop our God-given resources responsibly and to the maximum benefit of Alaskans,” according to a Wednesday statement from the Walker campaign.
A former Republican, Mr. Walker was trailing by double digits until he formed a “unity ticket” in early September with Mr. Mallott, who had won the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, in order to improve the odds of beating the Republican incumbent.
So far it’s working: A RealClearPolitics average of the latest polls show Mr. Walker running ahead of the Republican governor by an average of 3.8 percentage points.
Mr. Parnell was elected on a ticket with Mrs. Palin in 2006, then took over in 2009 after Mrs. Palin’s resignation. He won a full term in 2010, but he and Mrs. Palin clashed this year after she opposed Senate Bill 21, a Parnell-backed rewrite of the state’s oil-tax system. A ballot campaign to repeal the measure failed narrowly in August.
Mr. Parnell may have bigger problems than the Palin endorsement. He’s struggling against charges that he failed to do enough to combat a sexual-assault scandal in the Alaska National Guard, which exploded in September after the release of a scathing report by the Office of Complex Investigations.
Mr. Parnell, who requested the report, removed this week three Guard leaders and brought in federal investigators to address fraud charges. He released last week on his official website a video in which he says he’s “committed to the cause of justice and to protect our citizens from abuse and sexual assault.”
“Alaskans, you know me, and my heart, for helping Alaskans escape the nightmare of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is my life’s work,” Mr. Parnell says on the video.
His wife, Sandy Parnell, appears in an ad released Tuesday addressing the uproar.
“The National Guard scandal is disturbing to all of us. It didn’t start with this governor, but this is where it ends,” said Mrs. Parnell. “The governor is tackling this challenge head on, and is fixing it, along with the good men and women of our National Guard.”
She chides the Walker campaign for using the issue “for political gain,” but that didn’t stop Alaskans for Walker-Mallott from releasing an ad Thursday featuring Spc. Melissa Jones, who says, “I was sexually assaulted while a member of the Alaska National Guard. So were many others.”
“Gov. Parnell may have great intentions, but we needed action, not words, in response to these crimes,” Ms. Jones says in the ad, which shows photos of her in uniform during her service.
How the scandal plays with Alaska voters remains a question, but Anchorage political analyst Marc Hellenthal said the governor erred before that by allowing Mr. Walker to define himself unchallenged in the weeks following the Sept. 2 “unity ticket” announcement.
“The Guard is certainly part of it, but there was a campaign mistake: They let him [Walker] go on TV and radio for three weeks unopposed,” Mr. Hellenthal said. “Now they have to push an alternative definition of Bill Walker.”