JUNEAU (AP) Sen. Lisa Murkowski has one less challenger to worry about in 2004.
Alaska Teamster official Jerry Hood, passed over once for a senate appointment, will not seek the GOP nomination in the Aug. 24 primary, he said Wednesday.
Hood was one of several Republicans mulling a run against Murkowski in her first election since being appointed to fill out the remainder of her father's senate term.
After testing the waters for several weeks, Hood officially announced he would not seek the seat during a press conference in Anchorage.
As the secretary treasurer of the Alaska Teamsters Local 959, the 56-year-old Hood said he can do more for the state and union members by remaining in his present position.
''I think staying right where I am at and working on those issues from this position, I can do more for Alaskans, I can do more for the Teamsters than entertaining a race for the United States Senate,'' Hood said.
Hood is a former Democratic National committeeman who switched parties to campaign for Frank Murkowski in his gubernatorial bid. The Alaska Teamsters endorsed Murkowski in his bid for governor.
While in the U.S. Senate, Frank Murkowski worked closely with Hood to muster support in Congress for energy issues including ANWR development and a proposed natural gas pipeline.
''Jerry has been a real workhorse back in Washington on the ANWR issue,'' said Lisa Murkowski. ''It's great to hear he will continue in that capacity.''
Prior to making his announcement, Hood had a conversation with Murkowski. During the conversation, the freshman lawmaker pledged to earn the support of the Teamsters, Hood said.
But Hood said he was not pressured to drop from the race by Murkowski or Gov. Frank Murkowski, who he said he had not spoken to about the decision.
''Naturally, the senator would rather not have opposition she expressed that but did not put any pressure on me to make a decision one way or another,'' Hood said.
With the departure of Hood, the focus now turns to two other Republicans who have indicated an interest in running for the seat. And Hood's departure could mean the difference between a crowded field that favors an incumbent or a two-candidate race.
Fairbanks businessman John Binkley said Hood's departure will have a bearing on his decision whether to run.
''I am still considering running for the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat,'' Binkley told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Another possible candidate, former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, remains undecided, she said Wednesday.
Whichever candidate emerges from the Republican primary will face a challenge from former Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles, a two-term governor who has run three statewide races.
Knowles 60, was heavily recruited by Senate Democrats who see the freshman Murkowski as vulnerable. Senate Democrat leaders have touted Knowles as one of their top candidates.
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