A decade after he was banned from the national Democratic convention amid an ethics investigation, former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker released a new yearbook photo on Thursday, one showing that he still has a reputation for the profane and swaggering words of the past.
Walker acknowledged that he sent an explicit message over text and has a relationship with a reporter, his second such liaison with a member of the media this year. He went public with the relationship in an interview with Daily Sitka News-Miner columnist Trudy Porter Wright, in an effort to avoid a similar scandal in coming months with Anchorage television anchor Jessica Deede.
“I knew and worked well with Trudy for many years in the press, and I can say with absolute certainty that I have never acted or looked to harm her or her family,” Walker wrote in a statement to The New York Times.
He called the text messages “inappropriate,” “disrespectful” and “disgusting,” saying he had intended to send them to a close friend. He said he regretted the actions of all parties.
“These events and the fact that they were reported by the media has caused immeasurable pain to my family,” he wrote. “I am so very sorry that I was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trudy and I did not interact inappropriately. Unfortunately, it is our culture today that it is accepted that anyone who interacts with the media is being harassed, and I continue to be pained by the fact that I did not control my actions.”
“There is much work to be done to prevent this kind of conduct from occurring again,” he wrote.
The tabloid-style investigation was underway this summer, and Walker got a glimpse into the emotional problems that can accompany politics. Then-Democratic Gov. Dan Sullivan had unsuccessfully urged Walker not to run for his former job of governor in 2010, believing that Walker had been indicted in a corruption probe. A few months later, the Anchorage Police Department interviewed Walker over alleged threats he made to another man in 2005, but no charges were filed.
The former governor, however, used the controversy to announce his candidacy for mayor in 2010, and prevailed in a contentious runoff campaign against Democratic incumbent Randy Ruedrich. This year, he made it a platform to impeach Ruedrich in order to win re-election, as an outsider. The effort failed, but has been credited with creating a national spotlight for other Alaskans who want to be governor.
Porter Wright, the conservative writer who first broke the story, said that as a 2014 congressional campaign, Walker had asked her to join him at a book party. At the event, the anchor asked him about a past encounter with a man he had described as a “drug dealer.” In their social media posts, Walker described that encounter as consensual.
On Thursday, she wrote about the new yearbook image for The Daily Sitka News-Miner, in which Walker had been accompanied by his twin sons.
“For a brief moment this week the Texas boots and Frank Sinatra mustache looked like part of a very brief boyhood,” she wrote. “No caption needed.”