In the three-way race for governor, Sean Parnell’s two challengers have developed a bit of a chummy relationship. Here’s Independent candidate Bill Walker last month at the National Congress of American Indians.
WALKER: There are many benefits of running and one of the benefits I’ve had is getting to know Byron.
And Democrat Byron Mallott …
MALLOTT: I have to say that we’ve become good friends.
But now, one of those candidates says he doesn’t want to have to compete with the other at all. Walker would rather face the governor alone.
Since Independent candidate Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott launched their campaigns, both have concentrated on beating Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. Mallott and Walker have never sent a press release bashing the other, and they’ve even complimented each other’s ideas on the campaign trail.
Only, there’s a problem with that. In the polls that have been conducted, Walker and Mallott both lose in a three-way race. Now, Walker has released a poll suggesting he would be competitive against Parnell if they were facing head on. He says he wouldn’t mind it if were suddenly to find himself in a two-way race.
“No disrespect to anybody, but I certainly wouldn’t,” says Walker. “So I think the poll speaks to that.”
The poll was commissioned by the Walker campaign, and conducted by Ivan Moore Research and the Alaska Survey. It shows Parnell with 42 percent support from respondents, Walker with 29 percent, and Mallott with 16 percent. When the poll takes Mallott out of the equation, the difference between Parnell and Walker shrinks to one point – 46 percent to 45 percent. And when Mallott is matched up against the governor, Parnell wins by a landslide – 55 percent to 34 percent.
Looking at the results, Walker says he doesn’t regret bypassing the closed Republican primary, where he would have been able to challenge Parnell more directly. While Walker is now an independent candidate, he has previously run as a Republican candidate and lost to Parnell in the 2010 primary. He says his message now does better with a broader audience than just Republican voters.
Walker adds that even if he likes the idea of a two-way race in the November 4 general election, he hasn’t approached Mallott about dropping out.
“It’s not intended to be a shot at him in anyway, other than just the polls — they are what they are,” says Walker.
Not surprisingly, Mallott isn’t too friendly to the idea of leaving the race, or trying to merge tickets. Mary Halloran is Mallott’s campaign manager.
“It is not and it never will be a two-way race between Bill Walker and Sean Parnell,” says Halloran. “What the poll does show and we’re most interested in is that most Alaskans want a different governor.”
Halloran is also skeptical of the poll itself. She suggests that it could be a “push poll” — never mind the problem of Alaska being famously difficult to survey.
The only other polls released on the governor’s race have been done by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, and they reached an opposite conclusion. A May poll showed the numbers basically flipped, with Parnell getting support from 37 percent of respondents, Mallott coming in second with 27 percent, and Walker in third with 17 percent.
“We do know that in all the other polls we’ve seen, Walker’s come in dead last,” says Halloran. “And what’s changed? As far as we can tell: nothing.”
Halloran says that moving forward, the Mallott campaign plans to spend more time highlighting the differences between their candidate and Walker, particularly on social issues like abortion.
Halloran would not say if their campaign’s internal polls match any of the publicly available numbers.
Ivan Moore, who conducted the survey, stands by his numbers.
“There was nothing about this survey that could be characterized as ‘pushy’ in any way at all,” says Moore. “When you come out with poll numbers that people don’t like, they resort to attacking the poll itself. I am an open book, and anyone who wants to come and sit down and look at the original data with me can do it.”
Moore says his results likely differ from PPP’s because his firm calls cell phones and landlines. PPP collects its information from landlines and online responses.
For its part, the Parnell team is brushing off Walker’s statement that he could be competitive in a two-way race.
“No matter how hard Walker tries to ignore the reality of a three-way race, Sean Parnell continues to hold a double-digit lead,” says campaign manager Jerry Gallagher.