Craig Fleener resigns ADF&G for independent Lt. Governor bid
Craig Fleener, former deputy commission for the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, quietly resigned from his post last week in anticipation of announcing this week that he would run for Lt. Governor with independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker.
The running mates made the announcement together in a Fairbanks press conference Monday afternoon at Doyon, Ltd.
As independent candidates, Walker and Fleener will run in the general election, skipping the primary race against candidates vying for the nominations from voters on the Republican and Democrat and other party tickets.
Walker, a hometown favorite in Valdez and the Copper Basin, said he was introduced to Fleener by a mutual friend.
Before introducing the 46-year-old Fleener, Walker said that his early campaign travels, he’s talked to thousands of Alaskans, heard their concerns and paid attention to their myriad concerns. While Walker’s background is heavy in Alaska energy issues, he was looking for a running mate to round out his team to address the concerns of all Alaskans: a different focus but same passion. Fleener fit the bill.
“This is an opportunity to have a different relationship between the Governor and Lt. Governor,” Walker said.
Fleener, who claims to have always been undeclared in his Alaska voters registration, says his personal convictions do not allow him to claim party affiliations, as he prefers to judge candidates on merit, not partisan lines.
“I’ve always been undeclared,” Fleener said in response to questions from the press regarding his party affiliation.
In Fleener’s biography released by the Walker campaign, the former ADF&G deputy commissioner brings an impressive background of public service and experience to the ticket.
“Prior to joining the Department of Fish & Game, Mr. Fleener served in several capacities for the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (“CATG”) in Fort Yukon, including service as Executive Director of that organization,” the Walker campaign said. “ While at CATG, Mr. Fleener served for a number of years as the only U.S. representative on the Gwich’in Council International, a permanent observer organization of the Arctic Council, an international body made up of eight arctic nations which identified problems and created solutions for pollution, international shipping, natural resource development, human dimensions issues and indigenous peoples’ concerns for the arctic region on a global level.”
Fleener is a former US Marine and currently holds the rank of Major with the US Air Force Alaska Air National Guard and has served in Afghanistan.
He called his run for Lt. Governor “a logical progression,” in his career of public service.
“Almost every job I’ve ever had, I served someone else,” he said.
Fleener was quick to deny a divide within the Parnell administration, under which he served at ADF&G until his resignation last week; he pointed to state law which does not allow a state employee to run for elected state office.
“I actually hated the idea of leaving,” he said when questioned about his resignation. “I had no ax to grind, I have no ax to grind.”
Both Walker and Fleener stressed not only a partnership in the duo’s independent bid for Alaska’s highest offices, but a partnership to bring Alaskans together, “bridging the rural and urban divide,” Fleener said. “I’m in this race to bring all Alaskans together,” he said. “I’m in this to bring all Alaskans together.”
Both candidates are required to submit petitions containing the requisite number of signature needed by law to appear on the 2014 ballot, a number exceeding 3000 according to Walker. Statute state the signatures must “equal in number to at least one percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the preceding general election.”
Walker will face-off against republican Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking re-election after besting Walker in the 2010 primary elections. Lt. Governor Meade Treadwell has declared his candidacy to run for US Senate, hoping to upset Democrat Mark Begich.