Leman victorious in tight race for No. 2 governor spot

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- With nearly all votes counted, Loren Leman has won the Republican Party's nomination for lieutenant governor.

Leman, the state Senate Majority Leader, had 29 percent of the vote with more than 99 percent of votes tallied in Tuesday's primary election. He held a lead of 1,424 votes over Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, who had 27 percent of the vote.

Sen. Robin Taylor followed with 23 percent and former House Speaker Gail Phillips had 19 percent. Paul R. Wieler was a distant fifth with 2 percent of the vote.

''I would have liked the margin to be bigger. A win is a win,'' Leman said Wednesday.

With that in mind, Leman said he'd already met with U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski and his team to talk about the work ahead. Murkowski, a Republican, easily won his party's nomination for governor. The general election is Nov. 5.

Leman said he and Palin did well in Tuesday's primary election because their views on many issues resonated with Alaskans.

''A lot of her values are comparable to mine,'' he said.

Palin could not immediately be reached for comment.

As votes were being counted Tuesday, Palin said she felt her strong showing was because Alaskans were eager for a new approach to the state's problems -- one that could be modeled on the successes achieved in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

''Collectively my three competitors have served in the Legislature longer than I've been alive,'' the 38-year-old Palin said.

Phillips, who left the Legislature in 2000 to run for governor but backed down after Murkowski declared his intentions, staked out her ground as a moderate in a field of conservatives.

Unlike her opponents, Phillips said she would use some of the investment earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to help close the state's projected $963 million budget gap. Phillips also supports a $100 per year education head tax. She also would increase oil drilling and improve transportation systems to increase revenues.

The other candidates in the race said they would tackle the budget gap by cutting state spending and also increasing resource extraction.

Taylor, who has served 18 years in the Legislature, portrayed himself in television ads as the candidate who would ''always protect your (Alaska Permanent Fund) dividend.'' He has also said he would reduce state government, consolidate state agencies to increase efficiency and privatize services when possible.

Leman emphasized his opposition to a personal income tax and stressed that he also would leave the PFD alone. He said if elected he would try to cap state spending and reduce the budget, while at the same time encouraging resource development and new economic investment in Alaska. The former commercial fisherman also said he would be pro-active on the fisheries front.

''I appreciate his conservative viewpoint in matters that are important to me,'' said Debbie Graves of Anchorage, after casting her vote for Leman.

Anchorage businessman Ernie Hall was the lone Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

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