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Democrats rally for Byron Mallott

byron mallottIn front of a crowd of about 80 people, Byron Mallott held a rally in downtown Anchorage on Wednesday to officially announce his entrance into the 2014 governor’s race. If he wins the Democratic primary, which is likely, he’ll be facing Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in the general, along with independent candidate Bill Walker.

He was introduced by Democratic activist Jane Angvik as well as Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who also announced his run for lieutenant governor. French had planned on running for the top of the ticket, but he said that he’s “taking a step back for the team because Byron Mallott can win the election.”

Indeed, there was an air of optimism at the rally. It’s been a long time since the Democrats had such a strong candidate and certainly the first time in a long time that they have had one with such wide-ranging experience, a phrase that Angvik used repeatedly throughout her introduction.

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, 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.

While Mallott is accomplished, he also has a reputation of being volatile. But if that’s true, he kept that tendency at bay during his understated and humble announcement speech, the theme of which was about unifying the state.

Mallott said he wants a place where future generations can say that it “reached out to the least amongst us,” a state where its citizens worked to turn it into a “laboratory to those things that were unique to it,” a place that helped every child born into it.

After his speech, Mallott, in contrast to Dan Sullivan’s Senate announcement on Tuesday, spent some time with the media answering questions. Mallott’s nothing if not adept at wrapping answers in platitudes. However, when asked directly if he would personally vote to repeal SB 21, the controversial oil tax bill passed last legislative session, he said he would.

He pointed to the more than 50,000 Alaskans who signed the petition to repeal the bill as evidence that something isn’t right with the new tax law, and that if it weren’t rewritten, it would “color everything.”

“We still need to work for the best balance,” he said, noting how important oil is to the state’s economy and how he would work with the companies and the citizens to create that balance.

The repeal effort is likely to take center-stage in the upcoming race. The oil companies and companies which depend on oil industry revenue—including some Alaska Native Corporations– will likely spend millions of dollars to make sure that the repeal doesn’t happen, and will likely try to make sure that a candidate who supports the repeal isn’t elected.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com