Ken Lancaster’s withdrawal this week as Independent gubernatorial candidate Andrew Halcro’s running mate caught many people by surprise, and so far, Lancaster has shared few details about why he reached that decision.
Lancaster made the announcement Thursday, saying he no longer was a candidate for lieutenant governor. Halcro is not expected to announce a new running mate before early next week, but said Friday he must do so by Wednesday.
In an interview Friday morning, Lancaster shed little light on his decision to drop out. He said he still fully supports Halcro and wants to see him become the next governor.
According to Lancaster, Halcro sought him out in late May proposing that Lancaster join him on the Independent ticket. At first, Lancaster declined, saying he and his wife were too busy.
“He came back again, so we committed to at least getting him on the ballot,” Lancaster said.
Halcro’s and Lancaster’s first order of business was to acquire enough signatures over the course of the summer to earn a spot on the November ballot. That effort was successful.
Once that effort was under way, Lancaster said, he became fully committed to running for lieutenant governor. However, a “lack of communication” between Halcro and him over the course of the summer led him to step down from the ticket. He would not elaborate on how that lack of communication manifested, or whether it concerned specific differences over political issues.
“It was just a lack of communication in general,” was as far as he would go Friday.
Lancaster’s vagueness about the lack of communication with the Independent ticket’s head appeared to be out of his desire not to damage Halcro’s chances in November.
“I intend to support Andrew at the ballot box,” he said. “I hope that he wins. I want Andrew to win this race and I don’t want to do anything to deter that.”
Lancaster acknowledged that Halcro has an uphill battle against Democratic Party nominee Tony Knowles and Republican Party nominee Sarah Palin, but he believes Halcro to be the best choice among the three.
Among other things, Lancaster is a former Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives.
“To me, it’s a loss,” Halcro said when reached Friday. “I really felt fortunate to have his experience and knowledge. There is no question we were breaking new ground here.”
Halcro said Lancaster indicated early on he might have to drop out of the race at some point. Meanwhile, while established-party candidates were running Alaska primary campaigns, the Halcro-Lancaster summer campaign consisted mainly of securing the necessary signatures just to get on the November ballot.
The two candidates and their campaign staffs did communicate, Halcro said, but mostly about the logistics of signature collection, not about substantial political issues. Following the primary, Halcro said he contacted Lancaster, proposing they begin discussing campaign matters such as travel schedules and combining campaign accounts. Lancaster again said he might have to abandon the race, Halcro said, but did not mention anything about a lack of communication.
“At that time, it was a ‘might,’” Halcro said.
For a week after Labor Day, Halcro’s team began researching state statutes, unsure what had to be done if Lancaster did, indeed, decide to step away from the race.
“I did not have a solid grasp myself,” Halcro said. “There are no statues about replacing a candidate who got on the ballot the way we got on.”
Last weekend, Halcro e-mailed Lancaster, telling him he was researching the law and learned that Lancaster would indeed drop out of the race. By Monday afternoon (Sept. 11), Halcro had learned from his legal counsel that there was nothing in state statutes governing the circumstance.
Lancaster and Halcro notified the Alaska Division of Elections regarding Lancaster’s decision. The division decided Halcro would have until Sept. 20 to replace Lancaster with a new candidate for lieutenant governor.
Halcro said he was talking with two potential candidates and hoped to make an announcement Monday or Tuesday. He declined to name them.
As to his campaign, he said things were going well despite being far behind in the polls. He said that would change as the media began focusing on the three-way general election race.
A longtime Republican, Halcro’s decision to run as an Independent was the most likely way to get his message out.
“I wasn’t prepared to run as a Republican and get pinched out in the primary,” he said. “I wanted to get to the dance and have a roll in driving the debate.”
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