Palin goes rogue with en­dorse­ment

Backs suc­ces­sor’s foe

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

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.”

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