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Democrat and independent merge campaigns in Alaska governor’s race

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The Democratic nominee for governor of Alaska and an independent candidate announced Tuesday that they have merged their campaigns, marking the beginning of an unprecedented political alliance in the state that could put a Republican-held seat in play this fall.

Walker will continue his run for governor and Mallott will become his running mate, the two men announced. Speaking at a press conference in Anchorage, they showered each other with praise, and vowed to pursue the campaign ahead as partners.

"We will work as a team," said Walker. "We will work as a team in the next 60 days. We will work a team in our administration."

The move allows the two candidates, who hold similar views on many issues and have a friendly personal relationship, to combine forces against Gov. Sean Parnell (R). In a three-way race, Mallott and Walker would have competed for many of the same anti-Parnell voters and potentially canceled each other out. The unified ticket applies new pressure on Parnell, who until now has not been viewed as terribly vulnerable.

As part of the arrangement, Walker agreed to change his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared. Tuesday was the deadline for ballot changes.

The Alaska Democratic Party overwhelmingly signed off on the decision Monday. Mallott said the idea of teaming up started taking shape over the weekend. The similarities between the two on various policy fronts made the decision to come together easier, he noted.

"It is an unprecedented coming together of two campaigns to help build the Alaska of our future," said the Democrat.

A recent survey conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Parnell leading a three-way race with 37 percent of the vote. Mallott clocked in with 22 percent support in the poll and Walker wasn't far behind with 20 percent.

Parnell spokesman Luke Miller said the new ticket is evidence that Walker is being nudged to the left.

"We're not surprised that Bill Walker is embracing Obama Democrats here in Alaska," said Miller.