GOP to pare list of favorites for Pearce seat

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Republican Party leaders plan to meet Monday to pick a list of nominees to submit to Gov. Tony Knowles as candidates to replace Sen. Drue Pearce, who has taken a job with the Department of the Interior.

Knowles is under no obligation to choose one of the names on the party list, but he must choose a Republican and his pick must be confirmed by the Republican-dominated Senate. he has until July 18.

The Republican Party of Alaska last week gathered names of people interested in the job. The executive committees from Districts 11 and 12 plan to meet Monday to pare the list down to about three names, said Randy Ruedrich, party chairman.

Knowles will look at the list very closely, said Claire Richardson, a spokeswoman for the governor's office.

Pearce has taken a job as Interior Secretary Gale Norton's senior adviser for Alaskan Affairs.

The two representatives whose House districts make up Pearce's Senate district, Reps. Andrew Halcro and Norm Rokeberg, are interested.

Also seeking the job are:

-- Nancy Bear Usera, former Gov. Walter J. Hickel's chief of staff, now a senior vice president with Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and head of the Anchorage civic group Commonwealth North.

-- Ben Stevens, who ran the 2001 Special Olympics and is the son of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

-- Doug Bailey, former state attorney general under Gov. Steve Cowper, a Democrat, and a former prosecutor.

-- Bob Bell, a former Anchorage assemblyman and candidate for mayor of Anchorage.

Chuck Achberger, the Republican Party representative for District 11 and Nancy Bear Usera's husband, said the party is looking for candidates whose politics resemble Pearce's.

Bear Usera said she would not run for the seat once this term is completed in 2002.

Ben Stevens, son of the senator, said that he's seeking the post based on his qualifications and that he would not ask for family help. If chosen, Stevens said, he would run for the seat when it opens.

Doug Bailey said he hasn't decided whether he would run for the seat once the term ends.

Bell, who owns an engineering company, said he threw his name in to be a place holder, not a politician.

''I said yes, if I don't have to run for the seat later,'' he said. ''It would be refreshing to have someone there who is not running.''

Rep. Rokeberg said that when he was running for his House seat, he indicated an interest in taking over Pearce's seat if she didn't run again.

Rep. Halcro said he talked with the governor about his interest in January, when rumors of Pearce's departure first circulated. He said he wants to promote ''moderation in the Senate, not just demagoguery.''

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