The earliest that a candidate can start raising money to run for governor is May 4, yet the once and future gas line candidate Bill Walker has announced that he’s in. On Thursday, Walker said that he’s throwing in his hat for governor on the Republican ticket because, “Alaska needs a strong, aggressive leader with a proven track record of putting Alaska’s interests first,” he wrote.
Walker ran against Gov. Sean Parnell in 2010, after he was handed the reins to his seat by former Gov. Sarah Palin. For a little known candidate who hadn’t held political office, Walker did better than expected in the primary, getting more than 33 percent of the vote to Parnell’s 50 percent.
He smoked Ralph Samuels, the guy who was supposed to be the one who gave Parnell a run.
As a lawyer for the City of Valdez and for the Port Authority, which has paid his firm millions of dollars, Walker has for years advocated that the state more aggressively pursue and even fund the building of a large diameter natural gas pipeline that would run from the North Slope to Valdez, appealing to many who, for years and through subsequent administrations, have seen that dream, slowly slipping away.
Indeed, the final nail on the big line’s coffin was likely hammered with the passage of a bill that will facilitate the building of a smaller diameter pipeline that will carry gas from the North Slope to Southcentral.
That happened last legislative session, under Parnell’s watch and with Parnell’s tacit approval.
It’s hard to say how much momentum Walker will build on the gas line this time around, which seems to be his largest issue. (Say nothing of the potentially telling fact that he announced nine days before he can legally take a check for his run). In 2010, some still had faith in that decades-long big line dream, which would be big enough to both power Alaska and allow for importation.
Now, when residents of Fairbanks are choosing between heating their homes and paying for groceries, when the cost of fuel in threatening to ruin some rural Alaska villages, and when Anchorage is bracing for natural gas blackouts, the public seems less interested in big dreams and more interested in just keeping the lights on.
What Walker’s run will undoubtedly do, however, is to shine a light on the fact that while, under Parnell’s watch, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to energy projects, many of them competing with each other, while the one project that was supposed to solve all of Alaska’s energy woes has all but died.
What Walker’s run will do is to highlight the fact that, for better or for worse, the dream of the big line died under Parnell’s watch.
Read Walker’s statement in full below:
Bill Walker Announces Run for Governor
ANCHORAGE — Today, Bill Walker announced that he will run for governor in the 2014 Republican primary. Walker said he is entering the race because Alaska needs a strong, aggressive leader with a proven track record of putting Alaska’s interests first. “The only side of the boardroom table I have ever sat on is the Alaska side, and the only interests I have ever advanced are those of Alaskans,” Walker stated.
Walker is the son of Alaskan pioneers, Ed and Frances Walker, who came to Alaska in the 1940’s where Ed served in the Alaskan Scouts in the Aleutian Islands during WWII and Frances worked on the building of the AlCan Highway. Bill was born in Fairbanks and grew up in Delta Junction and Valdez where he worked alongside his dad and brother in their construction business starting at the age of eight, helping later to relocate and rebuild the town of Valdez after the devastating 1964 earthquake that took the lives of many of their friends and neighbors.
To finance his college education, Bill worked summers on the oil pipeline construction as a laborer, teamster and carpenter. After earning his business degree, Walker owned his own construction company, travel agency, hotel, restaurant/bar and gift shop while serving as a transportation commissioner and city councilmember. At the age of 28, he was selected as the Mayor of Valdez. He and his wife, Donna, graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 1983 and relocated to Anchorage where they practiced law for several years with the Hughes Thorness law firm before they started their own practice, Walker Richards LLC, which focuses primarily on Alaska’s oil and gas law and municipal law. The Walkers have four children, all West Anchorage High School graduates, who continued their education and have returned or will return to Alaska to establish their careers and raise their families.
Bill Walker serves also as the general counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. He is on the steering committee of the North America Gas Summit and participated in the 2011 Institute of the North Norway Policy Tour, the 2011 World LNG Summit in Rome and the 2012 World Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
According to Walker, “Working hard and investing my time, energy and resources into providing for my family and building up Alaska are what make my feet hit the ground running every single day. As governor of the state I love and am fiercely committed to, I am convinced that we can turn Alaska around, grab the reins and assume our rightful position as a global energy leader providing first for Alaskans, and then the world.”