Alaska’s lieutenant governor resigned abruptly Tuesday over what he said were “inappropriate comments” – which he and other officials have done little to further explain – providing an unexpected ripple in his boss’s re-election campaign just three weeks before voters go to the polls.
Byron Mallott, in a letter to Gov. Bill Walker, said it is “a resignation compelled by inappropriate comments I made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability.”
“I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt,” the letter reads.
Mallott, a Democrat, was Walker’s running mate when they were elected in 2014, and the two had been running again on a joint ticket for a second term. Walker is an independent who formerly served in public office as a Republican.
Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson was sworn in Tuesday as Mallott’s successor. She has represented Native American tribes at the state level under administrations of both major parties, her official biography states.
In appearances before reporters Tuesday, neither Walker nor Davidson revealed outright what Mallott had said, to whom he’d said it, or the setting in which he’d said it. But they gave some clues.
After saying she was saddened by Mallott’s resignation and disappointed in his conduct, Davidson referred to a need for “respect for women.”
“Respect for women, and the dignity of all Alaskans, is our responsibility,” Davidson said.
Walker, in an initial news conference announcing Mallott’s resignation, said Mallott “recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as lieutenant governor.”
“I learned of the incident last night,” Walker said. “… As leaders, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and that was not the case (here).”
The governor initially declined to answer reporters’ questions about the comments. Hours later, he said a little more in a brief huddle with journalists.
“Just an inappropriate overture, comment,” Walker told news outlets including CNN affiliate KTVA. “He realized it was inappropriate, and once he realized the impact of what he’d said, he thought it was appropriate for him to resign.”
It is too late to remove Mallott’s name as Walker’s running mate on the November 6 general election ballot. If the Walker-Mallott ticket wins, Mallott would not accept another term as lieutenant governor and Davidson would continue in that office, Walker told CNN affiliate KTUU.
A reporter asked Walker on Tuesday what Mallott’s resignation meant for the campaign.
“I had a cabinet meeting today. … I told them it’s not how long we’re here, it’s what we do while we’re here. Every day, we do the best we can, and if this impacts how long we’re here, then so be it,” Walker said. “The furthest thing from our mind is any sort of a political impact one way or another.”
CNN’s Andy Rose and Chuck Johnston contributed to this report.