Lesser known candidates surfacing in gubernatorial race

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The perceived heavyweights of the 2002 gubernatorial race have emerged.

But also emerging are the also-rans, perennials and the spoilers who in their small way have played a big part in past elections.

This will be the ninth run for governor for 72-year-old Don Wright, former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

He first ran in 1974 as a Democrat, later as a Republican and he also helped to found the Alaskan Independence Party on whose ticket he is running this time.

''I'm a better man than any of those candidates, including the women who are running,'' said Wright.

Wright is part of a growing list of candidates in the Aug. 27 Primary.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski announced his bid on Monday as the Republican candidate. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer announced her plans to run as the Democrat candidate on Saturday.

The two are widely seen as the favorites in the race. Three lesser-known candidates filed their candidacy previously with little fanfare. Other political parties say they, too, expect candidates to file in the future.

Wright, of Fairbanks doesn't expect to raise much money and says he usually campaigns on a ''one-to-one'' basis. In past campaigns he has piloted his tug boat named ''The Yukon'' to various villages and towns. He plans to do the same thing again for the 2002 race.

Wright said large special interest groups representing oil, timber, tourism, fisheries and other industries have taken control of Alaska. He said the state lacks independent leadership.

Bruce Lemke isn't expecting any support from the Alaska Democratic Party, but he's running for their nomination for governor in 2002 anyway.

''They don't realize the primaries everybody gets an open chance,'' said the 58-year-old Anchorage resident. ''I've always been at the edge.''

Lemke, who last ran for governor in 1982, doesn't have a campaign staff and he's using the same fund-raising committee that he used in his previous race. ''It's a committee of me,'' he said.

Admittedly a long-shot, Lemke said the experience of running will be valuable. ''I really do care about Alaska and I do have just a wealth of knowledge in my mind.''

Anchorage attorney Wayne Ross, 58, will face Murkowski in the Republican primary. Ross said key issues in his campaign are closing the fiscal gap and regaining state control over subsistence on Alaska land and waters.

Ross, a former assistant attorney general who served on the Republican National Committee, also ran for governor in 1998. He lost in the primary to John Lindauer but received 17,445 votes, or 16 percent. Lindauer lost to Gov. Tony Knowles by a wide margin.

Ross criticized Murkowski's decision to run for governor which, if successful, would require him to resign from the U.S. Senate after 21 years.

''When he ran four years ago, he talked about the fact that Alaska needed the seniority in the Senate. I think we still need it,'' Ross said.

Ross said he wants to ''ensure we have a good governor and also ensure we keep a good senator where he belongs.''

He doesn't have the name recognition that Murkowski enjoys, but Ross said his is not a losing fight. ''I go to win,'' he said.



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