ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) – Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced the immediate resignation of his Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott in an abrupt and unexpected press release followed by a live news conference Tuesday.
“Byron recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as Lieutenant Governor,” Walker said. “I learned of the incident last night. Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and has resigned.”
Walker and his staff refused to say what, how and to whom the comments were made.
Mallott stated in his resignation letter, provided by Walker’s office, “I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt.”
Walker spokespeople Austin Baird and Grace Jang would only say to the assembled reporters that the comments occurred recently and that they were not made to any member of Mallott’s staff.
Jang and Baird asked attendees and those watching live to extend “understanding” and “a bit of grace” as they work through the rapidly unfolding events and that they would try to get information out as soon as they can.
“This is extremely difficult, a lot to work through and a lot to process and we are trying to proceed in a way that keeps the victim in mind,” Baird said.
Jang echoed those remarks “We’re all just trying to work through this right now,” as she also acknowledged that it is highly unusual for Walker to not be more forthcoming.
”This was extremely decisive. [Walker] did move quickly and this is the governor doing what he thinks is right by acting decisively and moving on this,” Baird said. “I know it’s frustrating but that’s why we don’t have every answer ready to lay out.”
During his formal announcement, Walker expressed his disappointment and sadness with the turn of events as he introduced Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson as Mallott’s immediate replacement. Davidson was sworn into the office during a private ceremony in Walker’s Anchorage office.
Davidson, as the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, was confirmed as Lieutenant Governor-designee earlier this April, as part of standard state government procedure.
“Alaskans deserve the highest standards of conduct by their elected officials. While I am deeply saddened by the resignation of Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, I am profoundly disappointed by his conduct,” Davidson said. “Respect for women, and the dignity of all Alaskans, is our responsibility. I stand ready to serve as your Lieutenant Governor.”
The resignation comes amidst an already tight three-way governor’s race with independents Walker-Mallott as incumbents against, Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, and Democrat Mark Begich, a former U.S. Senator.
Walker acknowledged, in a separate statement issued through his campaign office that Mallott’s resignation also applies to the campaign.
“Though he cannot remove his name from the ballot, he will not accept the position of Lieutenant Governor if elected,” Walker stated. “Val Davidson will be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor and will also assume this role on the campaign. We hold everyone on our team to a high standard in all of their words and actions. This campaign and the stakes of this election are greater than any one person.”