To get his name on the November 2014 ballot as an independent, Walker must obtain 3,017 signatures on a nominating petition, which considering his popularity, ought to be a slam dunk. At the Anchorage news conference where he made his announcement, Walker called himself an "old-school Republican" after the manner of late former Governors Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond. He said running as an independent just felt right. He also claimed Hickel and Hammond never would have supported the SB21 oil tax cut passed during the 2013 legislative session and signed by Parnell, or what Walker sees as the state's wrong-headed approach in trying to develop North Slope natural gas. He said in a statement that it seemed to him that if you don't support things like the oil tax cut, then you're not considered a good Republican. Read the full statement HERE, and read the full text of his speech HERE.
The switch to an independent candidacy may have also been motivated by a recent Hellenthal poll of those who could and would vote in the Republican primary, which showed that 62 percent of respondents would support Parnell, only 22 percent for Walker, and 16 percent undecided. However, Hellenthal had a spectacular failure in 2006 when they predicted that John Binkley would defeat Sarah Palin in the Republican gubernatorial primary, so we shouldn't get too excited about Hellenthal's polling.
Republican reaction mirrors the split at the top of the party. Current GOP chair Peter Goldberg said Walker's decision came as no surprise to Alaska Republicans adding "He has strayed from our platform and principles over time and now aligns with liberals like Mark Begich, Barack Obama and progressive legislators over the state's current leaders". However, former GOP chair Debra Brown, who is championed by the insurgents who displaced the Randy Ruedrich crew at the top of the party in 2012, said that while she remains a staunch Republican, she believes Walker is the right candidate for governor. Brown and AFL-CIO leader Vince Beltrami flanked Bill Walker at his press conference. However, fears of a Republican split shoving a Democrat into office a la Tony Knowles in 1998 may not materialize unless the Democrats put up a candidate with "stroke"; Democratic Senators Hollis French, Bill Wielechowski and Rep. Les Gara have all teased about running, but have not committed as of this post. Tony Knowles won in 1998 when John Lindauer and Robin "Write-In" Taylor effectively split the Republican vote.
Public reaction is recorded as comments to the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Walker's taking some criticism; here's a sampling (after the jump):
Neil Tieszen · Anchorage, Alaska 5 hours ago (Alaska Dispatch):
There you go Bill, divide the republican vote so that we can elect a good honest liberal, just what this state needs, since we already have two liberal US Senators and a US Rep that doesn't seem to show up for work much.
Whatthepho 8:44 P.M. (Anchorage Daily News):
It looks to me like Walker answers to Vince Baltromi. That won't get him elected in Alaska.
With no party support, Walker will be competing for union votes and support with the person nominated by the Democrats.
With no platform and no voting record, I'm not sure what he stands for -- other than a gas pipeline that doesn't make economic sense to his home town.
richardscommonsense 8:30 P.M. (Anchorage Daily News):
Walker is a coward and afraid he'll lose to Parnell in the primary, and he wants more time to raise money. Thats why he's quiting on the republicans. He fiqures if he can't win, why not spoil it for Parnell. He wasn't good enough for Alaskan's last time, and he won't be again this time.
AKMiester posted at 3:33 pm (News-Miner):
Nothing more despicable than a politician claiming to be interdependent [sic] so they do not have to face a primary. To me its an indication they will do anything to be in office. How can we truct that kind of politician?