On Wednesday, Steve Strait and Frank McQueary, who are both state Republican Party officials, filed a lawsuit challenging Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s decision to allow Bill Walker and Byron Mallott to run together in the governor’s race as the “Unity” ticket. Treadwell oversees the division of elections. He certified the ticket on September 2, the last day such changes were allowed.
Two days before the due date, on Labor Day, the Alaska Democratic Party’s state Central Committee voted to put Walker, a Republican who had been running as an Independent, on top of the ticket, and Byron Mallott, who had won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, as his lieutenant governor. The switch was made because the party didn’t think they could win any other way. Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, is now not running for anything. It was one of the stranger acts of politics in Alaska, and among other things, means that for the first time in history, the Democratic Party will not have a Democratic candidate running for governor.
Long-time lawyer Ken Jacobus is representing Strait and McQueary, who are paying for it themselves, they said.They argue that the regulations that allowed Treadwell to put them on the ticket are reserved for emergency situations, when it is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare.” The switching of the tickets was not an emergency, the plaintiffs argue, but rather a political calculus orchestrated in part by the Alaska AFL-CIO, who had been pushing to combine Walker and Mallott. They said that if this is allowed, election law will forever be changed.
“It will not matter who wins Primary elections or who is supported by the public, whatever party they belong to – anyone with enough influence will be able to hand pick nominees who are best for them,” they said. “In this case it was the AFL/CIO Leadership who interfered – next time it could be anyone with adequate financial resources.”
Treadwell claimed precedent when he certified the ticket. However, the precedent he cited was a situation in 2006, when lieutenant governor candidate Ken Lancaster had to drop out of the race due to health reasons, and another candidate was put in his place.
That 2006 decision was legitimate, the plaintiffs say. However, this situation isn’t. “Procrastination, political strategy, and political expediency has nothing to do with preserving public peace, health, safety, or general welfare, and is not an emergency” under state statue, they said in their legal brief.
Bill Walker dismissed the suit as party politics. “This complaint filed by the former general counsel for the Republican Party on behalf of a Republican Party chairman is nothing more than a distraction from the real issues facing the state,” he said.
McQueary is the vice-chair elect of the party. Jacobus was a lawyer for the Republican Party about 10 years ago
In any case, mostly due to practicalities and time restraints, it’s unclear if the plaintiffs will prevail. The Division of Elections begins sending out ballots on the 19th. The plaintiffs have requested an expedited hearing. Anchorage Superior Court John Suddock will be hearing the case. There will be a scheduling hearing on Thursday.
Correction: The article originally said that Frank McQueary was the Alaska GOP vice chair. He’s in fact the vice-chair elect.
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