The speculation is over. Gail Phillips, R-Homer, is set on becoming Alaska's next lieutenant governor.
Phillips kept people guessing whether she would run for governor or lieutenant governor after she announced in September her intent to seek statewide office. However, after U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski announced Monday his bid for the Republican gubernatorial candidacy, Phillips declared her intent to join him in the race for the state's top leadership roles.
"I'm really excited," Phillips said. "I think it's going to be a fun time and a good campaign. (Murkowski) and I make a very strong team.
"He grew up in Ketchikan and was in Fairbanks for many years. I spent many years in Southcentral and grew up in the bush. That gives us good coverage and a good understanding of the state."
A lifelong Alaskan, Phillips was born in Juneau. She graduated from high school in Nome, then from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor's degree in business education. She also has lived in Anchorage and now makes her home in Homer.
Her experience in the political arena includes serving on the Homer City Council from 1981 until 1984 and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly from 1986 until 1988. She served in the state House of Representatives for 10 years after being elected in 1990. In addition to her many committee assignments, she also served as speaker of the house from 1995 through 1998.
Speaking from Homer on Wednesday, Phillips said she's keeping her focus on the August primary.
"After that, with the outcome of the primary, then we can run as a team," she said of the Murkowski and Phillips combination.
One issue Phillips said she wants to bring to the campaign's forefront is regional learning centers. While still in the Legislature, she traveled across the state, assessing the need for and interest in the concept.
"There are 110 schools across the state that have six or less high school students in them," Phillips said. "In those areas where we have such small schools, we're looking at putting in regional centers so that we can bring the kids into a larger environment and offer them more classes, more opportunities."
She promised "a whole myriad of issues" once the campaign is put together, but refrained from giving details.
According to Virginia Breeze, spokesperson for the state's Division of Elections, only Daniel DeNardo, an Alaska Independence Party candidate from Anchorage, has filed as a candidate for lieutenant governor. However, there may be others, like Phillips, who officially declared their intent to run for office without specifying which seat. Still others may be waiting until the June 1 filing deadline is closer.
"It's always the unofficial stuff that's the most interesting," Breeze said.
For now, Phillips has plenty to keep her busy. On Thursday she heads to Anchorage, Saturday she'll be in Fairbanks and Monday she'll be in Juneau.
"It's already started," she said of the hectic demands of campaigning.
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