What most expected to be a tense debate among three gubernatorial candidates – Gov. Bill Walker, Republican Mike Dunleavy and Democrat Mark Begich – quickly became a tame two-way exchange between Dunleavy and Begich.

That’s who was left Friday afternoon after Walker announced at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention that he was suspending his campaign.

Walker said a lot of variables drove his decision, but stressed it was not driven by the abrupt resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott driven by inappropriate comments.

While Walker stood in an open area of the Dena’ina Center with supporters and reporters, Begich and Dunleavy took questions from an AFN moderator.

Dunleavy and Begich debated after AFN representatives gave Walker an emotional hour-long farewell.

Neither engaged in the kind of attacks seen in recent forums, perhaps leaving that for another day with the three-way race cut to two.

The two discussed roles of tribal courts, state’s rights on navigable waters and education.

Begich and Dunleavy differed on whether the Medicaid expansion, put in place three years ago, should remain.

The expansion has helped more than 44,000 residents receive healthcare, according to state data.

“We need to enhance it to make sure it works for the people, getting access and better care every single day,” Begich said.

Dunleavy was in the Senate when Walker unilaterally approved the expansion in a interim decision.

The Legislature still has pushed back on the expansion leaving Medicaid underfunded in consecutive fiscal years.

Dunleavy says Medicaid programs need a closer look.

”We need to make sure the programs we have in place are managed well,” he said. “That’s important. We have a number of programs in place that aren’t managed well.”

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