In an interview on Monday evening, businessman and Alaska Native leader Byron Mallott said that he’s “definitely” putting his hat in the race for governor against Gov. Sean Parnell, and that he will run as a Democrat.
Due to the restrictive primary system, Mallott, who is 70 years old and lives in Juneau, has been registered as a nonpartisan for 12 years and has worked and supported Republican, independent and Democratic candidates. However, he’s been a Democrat most of his life, he said.
Mallott declined to give specifics about his platform, but he did say that he was born and raised in Alaska, and feels passionately about the state and the place of Alaska in the union. “It’s literally another country in size and richness of resources, but in many ways it’s a small town. The way we deal with one another should reflect that uniqueness,” he said.
Democratic state Sen. Hollis French has filed papers to run for statewide office and has said that he was considering running for governor. It’s unclear if the news about Mallott will do anything to dissuade him from running. He couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday evening.
Mallott 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, and he’s got the resume to prove it. 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, including Alaska Airlines and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
He’s clan leader of the KwaashKiKwaan clan of the Raven tribe of Yakutat. His wife Toni is a retired elementary school teacher. They have five children.
Polls show that Parnell is popular in the state, but they also show that his popularity is rather shallow. In other words, he’s likable enough, but it’s not clear that there’s real commitment behind his support. Mallott is expected to start his campaign with deep pockets of support in Southeast Alaska, the Alaska Native community, and in some business sectors. He’s known to be passionate, tough, and smart and because no Alaska Native has been governor, the race has the potential to be imbued with history-making excitement.
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