Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott spoke to a friendly crowd of about 30 people on Thursday at the Democratic Bartlett Club in Anchorage. Without using notes, he spoke for about 40 minutes on subjects ranging from education to oil to declining state coffers. With every subject, he was able to weave in the central theme of his campaign: unifying all Alaskans.
Bringing Alaskans together has been Mallott’s theme since he announced he was running for governor in mid-October. He didn’t deliver a tub -thumper, but his stump speech has gotten better over time, and he always talks as if it’s coming from his heart.
Mallott is a young 70-year-old and brings a unique understanding and perspective to both government service and the private sector, as well as to the rural/urban divide that plagues Alaska. At 22 he was the mayor of Yakutat. He was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs under Gov. Bill Egan. He served as mayor of Juneau before becoming the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund. He was the CEO of Sealaska Corp, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and has served on the board of many corporations.
One of the biggest applause lines of his talk came when Mallott repeated what he had said before: that he would personally vote to repeal the oil tax bill, or SB 21, that was passed last legislative session and gives oil companies a tax break during times of high oil prices. The repeal is going to figure more prominently as those who support it get more organized, and those who oppose the appeal begin to fight back.
Mallott tempered his statement, however, by saying that his vote for the repeal will be a “nuanced” one. He said that regardless of whether or not the bill is repealed, the state needs to provide a stable climate in which to do business, and it needs to recognize the risks the oil companies take in Alaska.
He also warned the crowd not to demonize those who disagree.
“It will not serve us to continue a divisive debate,” he said. “We can all speak to issues and can come away with the sense that we are all in this together.”
Indeed, support to repeal the oil tax bill is turning into a Democratic litmus test, much like support to repeal ObamaCare has turned into a litmus test for Republicans.
But the bulk of Mallott’s speech was spent laying out a vision for an Alaska as a “place that cares,” as a place that encourages diversity and visionaries, as a place that reaches out to businesses to come to Alaska, and a place that has the most vibrant university system in the country.
If we don’t create such a place, he said, “the least among us loses, and we can’t have that in Alaska.”
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