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Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles endorses Begich in race for governor

Alaska’s last Democratic governor has endorsed Alaska’s last Democratic U.S. senator in this year’s race for governor.

On Wednesday, former Gov. Tony Knowles released an email backing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich in the race for governor. The message was sent through the Begich campaign email list.

Begich’s last-minute entry into the race turned the race into a three-way race between incumbent independent Gov. Bill Walker and the winner of the Republican primary, which most expect to be front-runner Mike Dunleavy.

Though Knowles wasn’t a booster for Walker (he contributed to now-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s gubernatorial campaign before the merger and not Walker’s until after the election), but he said he was initially optimistic about the new leadership. He said Walker came up short.

“Four years ago, I was optimistic when Democrats and Independent Alaskans sent a new team to Juneau. Yet today, our state’s budget crisis remains unresolved, our economy is in a slump with the nation’s worst jobless rate, crime is a growing problem in communities statewide, and two-thirds of Alaskans believe the state is headed in the wrong direction,” he wrote. “That’s why I’m supporting Mark Begich – to work with Republicans, Democrats and Independents to put our state on firm financial footing, to expand our economy while protecting our clean air and water, keep our communities safe, and to improve our schools which are the key to Alaska’s bright future.”

Knowles served from 1994 to 2002, and recently made headlines after he lead a mass resignation from the National Park System Advisory Board in protest over the policies and administration of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump.

The message from Knowles runs down Begich’s career as mayor of Anchorage and in the U.S. Senate. It also points out that Begich is the only pro-choice candidate in the race, which could become a key issue with an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court that’ll be filled by Trump.

Knowles also makes the pitch that Begich has a path to victory in what’s proving to be a difficult three-way race. Much of the attention has focused on just how Begich and Walker, who won in 2014 with an alliance with Democrats, will split the vote.

“When Mark first announced his run for Governor, many Alaskans were worried about the dynamics of a three-way general election, but I know firsthand that three-way races have been good to Democrats in Alaska,” Knowles wrote. “After all, that is how I won my first term as Governor and Mark won his first-term as Mayor.”