ANCHORAGE (AP) National Democratic campaign specialists are in Juneau to launch the groundwork for what is expected to be the state's hottest U.S. Senate battle in decades.
They are researching the backgrounds of former Gov. Tony Knowles, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat in 2004, and incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Murkowski spent two terms in Juneau as a state representative from Anchorage before being appointed by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, to the U.S. Senate last fall. The Democratic campaign team will research her record in the Legislature, said Knowles campaign spokesman Bob King.
King characterized such digging as standard at the start of a campaign.
''I'm sure our opponents are doing the same,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News.
Murkowski's campaign has no one assigned to do research on Knowles and does not have plans to bring in national party specialists to do so, said Curtis Thayer, finance director for the senator's campaign.
But people have volunteered to do research on Knowles for the Murkowski campaign, he said. He added there is no shortage of available public information about Knowles, who was governor from 1994 to 2002.
So far, Knowles and Murkowski are the only candidates for a race with national implications.
It is seen as one of the key battlegrounds for party control of the Senate and is expected to be one of the most expensive races in Alaska's history.
Murkowski has raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions from around the nation, helped by national Republican figures such as Vice President Dick Cheney, who is hosting a fund-raiser for her in Texas soon.
Knowles, who entered the race less than two months ago, also is expected to amass a huge campaign treasury.
Given the stakes, the Democratic campaign operatives visiting Juneau are not just researching Murkowski. They also are digging up information on Knowles.
King said the campaign is working to build ''a good factual record on Knowles and his accomplishments'' and have the background to answer any questions that come up in the campaign.
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