Alaska Appoints First Native Woman Lt. Gov. Amid Shake-Up
Alaska Governor Bill Walker swore in Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson as Lt. Gov. on Tuesday, making her the first Native American woman to serve as Lt. Gov. in any state. Her historic appointment doesn’t come out of thin air, however. She succeeds former Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a member of the Tlingit tribe, who abruptly resigned from his post after speculation that he made “inappropriate comments” to a woman. The incident occurred last week during the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) annual convention in Anchorage -- the biggest annual gathering of Alaska's indigenous people -- with Walker scheduled to open the conference on Thursday and Davidson to deliver the keynote address. “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 in a statement. “Respect for women, and the dignity of all Alaskans, is our responsibility. I stand ready to serve as your Lieutenant Governor.” Davidson, who is Yup’ik, most recently served as Commissioner of Health and Human Services to Walker. Prior to that, the University of Alaska Southeast graduate, who also has a law degree from the University of New Mexico, was the Senior Director of Legal and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, where she represented Alaska Native health needs at federal and state levels, and was a key player of the state’s Medicaid expansion. “Just two days ago, our world shifted, and I want you to know Alaskans deserve the highest standard of conduct by their elected officials,” she said at the AFN conference. “These last few days have been tough for all of us, but today is a new day. Today we move forward.” The announcement is bittersweet, as Walker announced on Saturday that he is suspending his re-election campaign after concern that he and Davidson would not win the crowded three-way race for the governorship. Walker encouraged his supporters to support the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich. More here.