During a gubernatorial debate Thursday, Gov. Bill Walker claimed the Alaska Republican Party contacted his organization asking him to run as a Republican.

"Yeah they did contact me," Walker said, when asked about his statement after the debate. "They wanted me to be their candidate. They wanted me to get rid of Byron Mallott and run as a Republican and you know what, I don't do it that way."

The claim was originally made during an exchange in which Mike Dunleavy, the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor, was questioning whether Walker and Mark Begich were in negotiations to cut a deal prior to the general election. Begich said no, they weren't. 

"I wish you would be more substantive to what people care about; crime, education, growing this economy but internal politics seems to be more interesting to you than anything else," Begich added.

Dunleavy replied, "This is for the people of Alaska. They want to know if they'll be disenfranchised if things move forward."

It was then that Walker spoke up.

"Well, I got to tell you the Republican Party contacted me some time ago, asked me to be their candidate and it was after you filed. So there's all sorts of conversations going on out there," Walker said.

Afterward, Walker added that a senior person within his organization received the overture by the Alaska Republican Party and confirmed he did not talk to Tuckerman Babcock, chair of the Alaska Republican Party, directly.

In response to Walker's claim, Babcock sent the following statement:

"The only official (or unofficial) contact regarding Bill Walker running as a Republican came from his Chief of Staff, Scott Kendall, on behalf of the Governor to ARP leadership. Our response to Mr. Kendall's inquiry was that it was a free country and Bill Walker could run as a Republican if he wanted to. We predicted the reception would NOT be warm.

"In addition, all of those inquiries from the Governor occurred prior to the State Convention of the Alaska Republican Party held in Anchorage last March."

The 2018 general election is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 22.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

RELATED COVERAGE: