FAIRBANKS (AP) State Rep. Jim Whitaker will seek the job of Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor, he announced Wednesday.
Whitaker, 53, a Republican, is in his fifth year as a legislator. He will face incumbent Rhonda Boyles in the municipal election Oct. 7.
''What I have to offer is a great deal of optimism, specific goals related to economic growth and earnestness to achieve those goals,'' Whitaker said.
He is the first to announce a serious challenge to Boyles, who announced her bid for re-election late last year and thought she had Whitaker's support. Boyles also is a Republican, although municipal races are nonpartisan.
Whitaker declined to criticize Boyles' administration.
''I look forward to a straightforward, honorable and intellectual campaign,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Boyles said she is not sure how she and Whitaker differ on issues.
''I think I am conservative. I think most business people are conservative. I'm not sure if Jim is conservative,'' Boyles said. ''I think the people deserve a choice. It's going to be a good race.''
Former state Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, said he had been approached about running for mayor and was considering it, but he's now supporting Whitaker.
''I wasn't planning to run. I just said it was an option,'' Davies said.
Voters first elected Whitaker to the District 10 seat in 1998. If he wins the mayoral election, he would forfeit the remainder of his term.
Whitaker sent a letter to Gov. Frank Murkowski recommending the governor select the District 10 chairman of the Republican Party, Nicholas Stepovich, as Whitaker's replacement for the seat if he is elected mayor. Stepovich is the son of Alaska's last territorial governor, the late Mike Stepovich.
Whitaker was undeterred by Stepovich's arrest Monday night on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a charge Stepovich said is baseless because a trooper's test determined his breath-alcohol content to be nearly nonexistent. Troopers said Wednesday that Stepovich, 45, failed field sobriety tests.
Borough mayors serve a three-year term. The filing period for the race opens July 29.
Whitaker and his wife, Jynx, own Arctic Travelers, a gift store, and the New Horizons Gallery in Fairbanks.
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