ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Fran Ulmer became an official candidate for governor Wednesday by turning in her paperwork and writing a $100 check at the Division of Elections office.
Minutes later, businessman Ernie Hall wrote his $100 check to file for his candidacy for lieutenant governor -- the position that Ulmer now holds -- even though the two say they are not running as a team.
Candidates must file by Saturday for the Aug. 27 primary.
''You have done this before,'' Hall said, as he and Ulmer handed in their paperwork at the Division of Elections counter. ''A few times,'' the lieutenant governor responded, breaking into a wide smile as television cameras and reporters gathered around.
Bruce J. Lemke of Anchorage and Michael J. Beasley of Fairbanks also have filed as Democrats. Hall, who switched from nonpartisan to Democrat, is facing Anchorage longshoreman Scott Heyworth, the chief sponsor of a ballot initiative to create an authority that could build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez.
''It's a $10 billion program ... that will put Alaska to work,'' said Heyworth, a longtime Democrat who also filed Wednesday.
Ulmer said she's not bothered that Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski is considered the front-runner.
''I think it is fair to say I'm the underdog in this race, and that's fine. Alaskans have always liked underdogs,'' she said.
Ulmer was elected lieutenant governor in 1994. Before that, she served from 1987 to 1994 in the Alaska House of Representatives. She was mayor of Juneau from 1983 to 1985.
Murkowski was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980. He won re-election in 1986, 1992 and 1998.
Ulmer said if elected she would focus on three problems: closing the state's budget gap, improving education and diversifying the state's economy.
The budget deficit needs to be tackled first, she said.
''Growing the economy will take an educated work force, and that starts at the earliest ages. But we can't achieve these goals unless we first solve Alaska's budget shortfall,'' Ulmer said.
She said she was disappointed that the Alaska Senate failed this session to make the tough decisions necessary to solve the problem.
''Doing nothing is the worse enemy of all,'' Ulmer said.
Ulmer dismissed the importance of recent endorsements Murkowski received from the state's top commercial fishing association and the Alaska Teamsters. The lieutenant governor said she's received some endorsements too, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547 and AFSCME Local 52.
Ulmer also was asked about television ads airing in Alaska that point the blame at Gov. Tony Knowles and herself for a slowing state economy and young people leaving the state.
Ulmer said the ads have their ''facts wrong.'' She called on Murkowski to ''call off the soft money attack dogs.''
Murkowski campaign manager Bill Gordon said the campaign was contacted by the group doing the ads, Americans for Job Security. The campaign provided the trade association group information from the state Department of Labor but that was the extent of the relationship, he said.
While supporting the factual basis of the ad, Gordon said the spot wasn't to his liking.
''I'm not sure this ad helps us. It's ugly,'' he said.
Gordon said the Murkowski campaign would be running its own ad closer to the primary.
So far, Ulmer has raised more than $600,000 for her campaign. Gordon refused to say how much Murkowski has raised. He said that information will be provided in a campaign finance disclosure statement to be filed a month before the primary.
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