One has to presume that Governor Sean Parnell had some sort of advance notice of the lawsuit, filed in Anchorage Superior Court last Wednesday, challenging the validity of the Walker-Mallott gubernatorial ticket. As Shannyn Moore noted over the weekend, the suit was “filed by a GOP chair, apparently financed by the treasurer for the GOP and filed by the former attorney for the GOP.” It would be a tough sell to think that the plaintiff, Steve Strait, didn’t mention it to any party colleagues; that the guy who picked up the tab, Kenneth Jacobus, kept mum.
Which may cause one to wonder why Parnell didn’t hear the news and promptly respond: “Hello, my name is Sean Parnell and don’t do that.”
And yet, it happened. The suit was filed and granted an expedited hearing in front of Judge John Suddock scheduled for Friday. The purpose, according to Strait, “is to protect the integrity of the Constitutionally-protected election process in the State of Alaska against governmental or private manipulation for private benefit.”
When Walker and Mallott chose to join forces, the lieutenant governor candidates on each respective ticket had to withdraw. This proved a bit tricky in the case of Walker’s then-running mate, Craig Fleener.
“The Alaska Constitution requires that for the general election, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor must run together and must appear together on the general election ballot,” Scott Meriweather, Special Assistant to Treadwell, explained in a September 2 letter sent to Parnell’s office. “No current statutes address what to do when a non-party candidate for lieutenant governor withdraws.”
Meriwether continued on to explain that emergency regulations were needed to patch the gap in existing law; to define how a non-party candidate withdraws and apply that process to Fleener. The quickly approaching deadline to get general ballots sent out for printing constituted the emergency. Citing precedent established by another case when a no-party candidate swapped lieutenant governor candidates, Treadwell filed the regulations and the ticket was validated.
Strait’s lawsuit contends that those regulations are invalid because they were not the result of an emergency. It wasn’t an emergency, he asserts, because Walker could have run as a Democrat.
[R]ather than use existing procedures, namely those set forth in AS 15.25.110, to create the AFL-CIO’s desired “super ticket” or a “unity ticket” by replacing Mallot/French on the Democratic Party ticket with Walker/Mallott, and for no reason other than political expediency and gamesmanship, Walker and Mallott… requested that Lieutenant Governor Treadwell adopt an “emergency regulation” “to allow this to occur.”
Bill Walker is not a Democrat. He is a Republican. Democratic Party bylaws require a candidate on a Democratic ticket to be, well, a Democrat. While Strait argues that Treadwell abused state statute, he’s doing so while dragging his feet across the First Amendment if he believes that the Division of Elections has any place compelling a candidate to change his or her party affiliation.
Strait also criticized the instance Treadwell cited as precedent; a 2006 request made by unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate Andrew Halcro to replace his lieutenant governor candidate, Kevin Lancaster, who withdrew for health reasons. Halcro asked that Fay von Gemmengen be added in Lancaster’s place, and Attorney General David W. Marquez instituted emergency regulations to comply.
Strait says that because Lancaster’s withdrawal was due to health issues, it was not germane to the current replacement of Fleener with Mallott. This case, Strait emphasizes repeatedly throughout the 14 page suit, was a matter of “[p]rocrastination, political strategy, and political expediency;” part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the AFL-CIO to topple Parnell’s reelection chances.
There are obvious differences between replacing a candidate for health issues, and replacing a candidate for the purposes of having a shot at winning. But motivation has nothing to do with what code and the courts have said. The 2006 memo from the attorney general’s office recognizes gubernatorial candidates’ broad flexibility over the makeup of their tickets, noting that if “the election code does not explicitly prohibit something, then the Court is likely to rule that it is permitted.”
We have previously recognized that the framers of the Alaska Constitution intended for the governor and lieutenant governor to be politically compatible…. But, “while the delegates spoke clearly of the need for a compatible executive team, a popularly elected governor is clearly the paramount constitutional feature.”
And, should any questions remain:
[T]o be absolutely clear, we think that no-party gubernatorial candidates are free to choose any running mate they wish, regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof, whether it be at the initial petition Stage or later when the original running mate may withdraw and need to be replaced.
The suit against the Mallott-Walker ticket charges Treadwell and Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai on six counts: lack of emergency justifying emergency regulation, violation of procedural due process, lack of statutory authority, injunctive relief, invalidity of regulation, and illegality of regulation. It’s a lot of words with no standing, serving the larger purpose of a complete and utter waste of time and money. The question isn’t if the legal challenge has any merit. The question should be: You actually paid the filing fee for this?
After citing the counts, Strait concluded by noting that the “Plaintiff prays that he be granted judgment in his favor against defendants,” and requested the ticket be denied, the emergency regulations struck down, and the attorney’s fees picked up by the state.
Pray away, good sir. But I’d hold off on placing any bets.