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Governor races get ready for primary showdown

Hopefuls, wannabes, also-rans enter final campaign days

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

JUNEAU -- Alaska's Republican Party may not have Wayne Anthony Ross to kick around much longer.

The Anchorage attorney who has waged an underfunded battle against Republican heavyweight Frank Murkowski for the party's nomination said his political future will be decided in the Aug. 27 primary.

Ross lost the party's nomination in 1998 to John Lindauer, after he and Sen. Robin Taylor garnered about 16 percent of the vote each.

If he loses this year to Murkowski -- who pollsters expect to easily capture the nomination -- he's calling it quits, Ross said.

''If I don't pull it off this time, I'm not going to put my family through it again,'' Ross said, adding he doesn't want to become known as the party's ''gadfly.''

There's a crowded field of 16 candidates for governor heading into the August primary but much of the buzz has centered around Murkowski and Democrat Fran Ulmer.

That field will be narrowed to one candidate each for governor among the Democrats, Republicans and Alaskan Independence parties after voters go to the polls in the state's first closed primary since 1967.

Also running for the Republican nomination is Brad Snowden of Seward and Eric Wieler of Anchorage. Wieler's twin brother, Paul, is seeking the party's nomination as lieutenant governor.

Ross has run the most active campaign among Murkowski's primary opponents, either chiding the veteran senator to offer specifics in his campaign or encouraging him to stay in Washington, D.C., where he is needed.

Ross said it's been difficult to battle for the attention and fund-raising support of Republicans in his race against Murkowski.

He's reported raising about $79,000 and accruing a campaign debt of $7,300, according to records from the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Murkowski has raised $946,665 and spent just less than half of that according to reports due 30 days before the election.

''If I had $10 for everyone who said I am going to vote for you, but you can't win, it would be a slam dunk,'' Ross said.

The Alaskan Independence Party also will winnow its slate of six gubernatorial candidates.

Perennial candidate Don Wright -- who has run for governor in every election since 1974 -- will face Samuel Acevedo Fevos Sr., Harold ''Sandy'' Haldane, Casey Cocker-ham, John Wayne Glotfelty and Nels Anderson Jr.

Wright has never won a primary race and rarely campaigns anymore, he said. But he will continue to run in the future if he is in good health, said the 72-year-old.

Billy Toien of Anchorage is the only Libertarian candidate for governor, Erica ''Desa'' Jacobsson is the lone Green Party candidate and Dawn Mendias is the only Republican Moderate on the ballot.

Ulmer faces opposition from Michael Beasley of Fairbanks and Bruce Lemke of Anchorage. Neither have mounted strong opposition and Ulmer already has won the Alaska Democratic Party's endorsement.

On Thursday, Ulmer aired a 30-minute television commercial chronicling her life and political career. The spot aired three times on stations in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. It did not mention Murkowski.

Murkowski has been campaigning in the state and attending fund-raisers that also have included Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, also had pledged to campaign for Murkowski during a three-week tour of Western states to help GOP candidates.

Ulmer has collected endorsements from the Public Safety Employees Association, representing Alaska State Troopers, unions representing state employees and the AFL-CIO.

Murkowski has won endorsements from the Alaska Teamsters and the United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's top commercial fishing association.



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