The Alaska chapter of the AFL-CIO announced Wednesday that it will support independent Bill Walker for governor, Republican Lisa Murkowski for U.S. Senate and Democrat Mary Peltola for the special U.S. House race to replace Congressman Don Young.
The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups, contributing money and volunteer support to candidates.
In the announcement proclaiming this year’s endorsements, the AFL-CIO cited the union-membership status of Walker and his running mate Heidi Drygas, the support of Murkowski for the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Peltola’s advocacy for pro-union legislation.
Kim Hays, the AFL-CIO’s political director, said the endorsements came after vice presidents from the group’s 40 member unions met and picked favored candidates.
In 2020, the AFL-CIO endorsed Al Gross for U.S. Senate and Alyse Galvin for U.S. House. Both lost. In 2018, it endorsed Walker for governor but switched to Begich after the independent incumbent halted his campaign. Begich lost to Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, who is now seeking reelection.
In this year’s endorsement, Alaska AFL-CIO president Joelle Hall referred to Dunleavy as a “tall man with small accomplishments.”
This year’s endorsements are unusually early for the AFL-CIO, a fact that Hays attributed to the state’s new electoral system, which includes a top-four primary and ranked choice general election.
Previously, she said, the group would wait to see which candidates emerged from the primary elections.
Hays said the Peltola endorsement applies only to the special Aug. 16 election, which will decide who represents Alaska in the U.S. House until January.
The union vice presidents will meet in August to determine an endorsement for the two-year House seat that will be decided in November, she said.
Legislative endorsements will be decided on a rolling basis and will be revealed incrementally through the summer, she said. Only one legislative race has more than four candidates, meaning that the August primary elections will eliminate few potential legislators.
James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This article originally appeared online at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.