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Murkowski beats Ulmer

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Republican Frank Murkowski, who has been Alaska's junior senator for 22 years, rolled to a victory on Tuesday in his bid to become Alaska's next governor.

In a state with a surplus of more than $2 billion and hasn't paid a statewide income tax in a generation, Murkowski said the election turned on his stance not to raise taxes despite dour predictions about the state's finances.

''The bottom line is that we are not going in there with the intention of taxing,'' Murkowski said. ''Alaskans expect that and we are certainly not going to permit that.''

Murkowski becomes the first Republican governor elected since 1978. Murkowski also will be able to appoint the successor to his two-year unexpired Senate seat under a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

He gave no hint Tuesday night about who he might appoint to his Senate seat.

The 69-year-old Murkowski was led into the Sullivan Arena by a throng of supporters waving campaign signs that read, among other things, ''vote to protect your wallet.''

Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles leaves office after eight years due to term limits and Murkowski's overriding theme was that the state economy stagnated during that time.

''I think the show of support and enthusiasm of all Alaskans is evidence that our campaign had a message of growing the state, it's the right message,'' Murkowski said.

He faced a spirited challenge from Democrat Fran Ulmer, who has served as lieutenant governor for the past eight years. Ulmer was vying to be the first female elected governor in Alaska and had never lost an election before Tuesday.

With about 80 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday, Murkowski enjoyed a 3-2 lead over Ulmer. As the state Division of Elections posted election returns at a gathering in the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Ulmer braced for defeat.

''The numbers look like Sen. Murkowski has won. But I feel as though we've won in some important ways in making the issues education, economic development and solving the fiscal gap,'' Ulmer said at a gathering of supporters at the Sullivan Arena.

Murkowski, who has turned down past pleas to run as the Repub-lican candidate, was heavily favored in this race. Despite holding state-wide office, Ulmer was unknown to a fourth of the state in early polls.

With Murkowski in Washington on Senate business during key weeks of the campaign and tireless campaigning, Ulmer managed to close the gap.

The two candidates sparred on many issues, but the constant theme was Alaska's budget problems. Murkowski, who made a career in Washington, D.C., out of promoting growth in the state's natural resources, made that theme central to his plan to dig Alaska out of the fiscal doldrums.

Alaska relies on oil for about 80 percent of its revenues and as North Slope fields age and production declines the state coffers are often short. The state's $2.1 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve is expected to be drained within the next governor's first term.

While Ulmer pledged to tackle the budget problem by moving away from the state's reliance on oil, Murkowski took the opposite approach.

Murkowski pledged to implement incentives and streamline the state's administrative functions to spur a 3 percent increase in oil production annually by 2005.

Amid dire predictions by Democrats who warned that the state's permanent fund dividend program was threatened without a plan to increase revenues, Murkowski said more belt-tightening was needed.

Ulmer proposed a ''parachute plan'' that automatically triggers new taxes when the state's reserve falls below $1 billion. Alaska, which hasn't paid a statewide income tax since 1980, is largely anti-tax and that message was resonating at the polls.

In the end, Murkowski was able to transform the race into a statewide referendum on taxes and Ulmer was not able to effectively counter, said Ernie Hall, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Ulmer had enlisted the support of former Gov. Jay Hammond, a popular Republican seen by many as the father of the state's permanent fund program, in an attempt to win supporters. Ulmer had worked on Hammond's staff before becoming a Democrat.

Hammond went on the campaign trail and cut television spots that warned that Murkowski's approach threatened dividends paid to eligible Alaskans.

Murkowski countered that Ulmer, a former Democrat lawmaker from Juneau, sponsored two measures to use permanent fund earnings for state government. In the final weeks, the debate centered around which candidate was more of a threat to the popular dividend program.

Alaska ranks second in domestic oil production -- which the state counts on for up to 80 percent of its revenues -- and the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline pumps 16 percent of the nation's oil.

But as North Slope fields mature, oil flowing through the pipeline has been on the decline, dipping to about 1 million barrels per day. That is half of the pipeline's peak amount in 1988.

Murkowski also vowed to bring North Slope natural gas to market by 2010, despite uncertainty about whether gasline incentives would emerge from an energy bill stalled in Congress.

Ulmer, 55, has served as Alaska's lieutenant governor for nearly 8 years. Ulmer served four terms in the state House as a Democrat from Juneau after serving a term as mayor.

The other candidates were Libertarian Billy Toien, Green Party candidate Diane Benson, Raymond Vinzant Sr. of the Republican Moderate Party and Alaskan Independence candidate Don Wright.

CREDIT:AP Photo/Al Grillo Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Frank Murkowski tries to make his way through a crowd of supporters at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday.

HEAD:Murkowski beats Ulmer

BYLINE1:By MIKE CHAMBERS

BYLINE2:Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE -- Republican Frank Murkowski, who has been Alaska's junior senator for 22 years, rolled to a victory on Tuesday in his bid to become Alaska's next governor.

In a state with a surplus of more than $2 billion and hasn't paid a statewide income tax in a generation, Murkowski said the election turned on his stance not to raise taxes despite dour predictions about the state's finances.

''The bottom line is that we are not going in there with the intention of taxing,'' Murkowski said. ''Alaskans expect that and we are certainly not going to permit that.''

Murkowski becomes the first Republican governor elected since 1978. Murkowski also will be able to appoint the successor to his two-year unexpired Senate seat under a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

He gave no hint Tuesday night about who he might appoint to his Senate seat.

The 69-year-old Murkowski was led into the Sullivan Arena by a throng of supporters waving campaign signs that read, among other things, ''vote to protect your wallet.''

Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles leaves office after eight years due to term limits and Murkowski's overriding theme was that the state economy stagnated during that time.

''I think the show of support and enthusiasm of all Alaskans is evidence that our campaign had a message of growing the state, it's the right message,'' Murkowski said.

He faced a spirited challenge from Democrat Fran Ulmer, who has served as lieutenant governor for the past eight years. Ulmer was vying to be the first female elected governor in Alaska and had never lost an election before Tuesday.

With about 80 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday, Murkowski enjoyed a 3-2 lead over Ulmer. As the state Division of Elections posted election returns at a gathering in the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Ulmer braced for defeat.

''The numbers look like Sen. Murkowski has won. But I feel as though we've won in some important ways in making the issues education, economic development and solving the fiscal gap,'' Ulmer said at a gathering of supporters at the Sullivan Arena.

Murkowski, who has turned down past pleas to run as the Repub-lican candidate, was heavily favored in this race. Despite holding state-wide office, Ulmer was unknown to a fourth of the state in early polls.

With Murkowski in Washington on Senate business during key weeks of the campaign and tireless campaigning, Ulmer managed to close the gap.

The two candidates sparred on many issues, but the constant theme was Alaska's budget problems. Murkowski, who made a career in Washington, D.C., out of promoting growth in the state's natural resources, made that theme central to his plan to dig Alaska out of the fiscal doldrums.

Alaska relies on oil for about 80 percent of its revenues and as North Slope fields age and production declines the state coffers are often short. The state's $2.1 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve is expected to be drained within the next governor's first term.

While Ulmer pledged to tackle the budget problem by moving away from the state's reliance on oil, Murkowski took the opposite approach.

Murkowski pledged to implement incentives and streamline the state's administrative functions to spur a 3 percent increase in oil production annually by 2005.

Amid dire predictions by Democrats who warned that the state's permanent fund dividend program was threatened without a plan to increase revenues, Murkowski said more belt-tightening was needed.

Ulmer proposed a ''parachute plan'' that automatically triggers new taxes when the state's reserve falls below $1 billion. Alaska, which hasn't paid a statewide income tax since 1980, is largely anti-tax and that message was resonating at the polls.

In the end, Murkowski was able to transform the race into a statewide referendum on taxes and Ulmer was not able to effectively counter, said Ernie Hall, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Ulmer had enlisted the support of former Gov. Jay Hammond, a popular Republican seen by many as the father of the state's permanent fund program, in an attempt to win supporters. Ulmer had worked on Hammond's staff before becoming a Democrat.

Hammond went on the campaign trail and cut television spots that warned that Murkowski's approach threatened dividends paid to eligible Alaskans.

Murkowski countered that Ulmer, a former Democrat lawmaker from Juneau, sponsored two measures to use permanent fund earnings for state government. In the final weeks, the debate centered around which candidate was more of a threat to the popular dividend program.

Alaska ranks second in domestic oil production -- which the state counts on for up to 80 percent of its revenues -- and the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline pumps 16 percent of the nation's oil.

But as North Slope fields mature, oil flowing through the pipeline has been on the decline, dipping to about 1 million barrels per day. That is half of the pipeline's peak amount in 1988.

Murkowski also vowed to bring North Slope natural gas to market by 2010, despite uncertainty about whether gasline incentives would emerge from an energy bill stalled in Congress.

Ulmer, 55, has served as Alaska's lieutenant governor for nearly 8 years. Ulmer served four terms in the state House as a Democrat from Juneau after serving a term as mayor.

The other candidates were Libertarian Billy Toien, Green Party candidate Diane Benson, Raymond Vinzant Sr. of the Republican Moderate Party and Alaskan Independence candidate Don Wright.



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