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article imageIndependent Walker ousts Parnell and is Alaska's new governor

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 16, 2014 in Politics
Anchorage - After a tense race, Independent candidate Bill Walker has won the Alaska race for governor, and that's largely due to the fact that he launched an aggressive campaign against Republican Governor Sean Parnell, The Huffington Post reports.
"I am beyond myself with excitement," Walker said Friday evening. "It has been a long, long journey with a whole lot of Alaskans at my side."
Walker garnered a slim lead on election night, but the race was too close to call while absentee and other ballots were being counted this week. Walker won on Friday after it became apparent that Parnell couldn't overcome Walker's lead, The Huffington Post reports.
On Saturday after all of the ballots were adjudicated and early votes, absentee ballots and outstanding ballots were taken into consideration, Walker led Parnell by just over 4,600 votes, CNN reports.
Walker hasn't declared victory just yet, and says he wants to study districts where thousands of remaining ballots have yet to be counted. Luke Miller, Parnell's campaign spokesman said Friday evening that the campaign is reviewing the returns and said he had no further comment.
Walker, a lawyer who is the former mayor of Valdez and a city councilor, is the first Independent to win the seat in Alaska's statehood. He announced his intention to run as an Independent in 2013 after Parnell defeated him in the 2010 Republican primary in the race for governor.
After finishing second to Parnell in the 2010 Republican primary, Walker bypassed this year's primary by gathering signatures to support running on the outside. He didn't change his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared until he and Democrat Byron Mallott merged their campaigns,with Mallott as the candidate for lieutenant governor. USA Today reports.
Although Mallott won the Democratic nomination for governor in August, a Walker-Mallott ticket was seen as stronger and more competitive against Parnell, who ran with Dan Sullivan, a fellow Republican and the mayor of Anchorage. Walker and Mallott joined forces in early September at the behest of labor unions and other groups.
Walker and Parnell have had a few dust-ups along the way.
Parnell charged that Walker had no specific plans and contradictory views, saying on the one hand that Walker said Medicaid and education would be looked at for possible spending cuts, but then also supported Medicaid expansion.
Parnell himself faced a mounting volley of criticism in the weeks prior to the election over his administration's handling sexual assault allegations within the Alaska National Guard. Parnell said he and his staff followed up on all of the allegations that they received, per USA Today.
Perhaps the biggest issue for Walker is a natural gas pipeline project that he supports. He's a long-time advocate but has taken issue with the process for establishing one that's been set up by Parnell's administration. Approved by the Legislature, this involves three major oil producers and TransCanada Corp., which would own a chunk of the state's interest in the pipeline and gas treatment plant, USA Today reports. Walker said he plans to see the project through, but he said Alaska needs a greater say than the state currently has, The Huffington Post reports.
Parnell stepped into the governor's shoes in July 2009, when Sarah Palin resigned. He won election in 2010. In October, Palin snubbed Parnell in his re-election bid, endorsing Walker instead because Parnell championed the dismantling of increased oil industry taxes--something that was a key part during Palin's term as governor, USA Today reports.
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