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Oct. 23, 2001 The Anchorage Daily News muses on the upcoming gubernatorial race

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2001

There's a temptation to say let's skip the primaries in the Alaska governor's race in 2002 and go right to the general election. That's because in the last few days the odds-on favorites in both the Democratic and Republican races have announced they'll run.

Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, Democrat, made it official last week.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, Republican, made it official Monday.

Several strong prospective Republican candidates, including former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom and state Sen. Robin Taylor -- were waiting to see what the 21-year U.S. Senate veteran would do. Sen. Murkowski's decision almost certainly thins the GOP field of genuine contenders to one.

That could well be the case on the Democratic side as well, though it's less certain there.

Conventional wisdom says Lt. Gov. Ulmer faces long odds against Sen. Murkowski. Conventional wisdom says she will run a spirited campaign but the senator will win a decisive victory and wrap up his long political career at the state's helm.

But before we give in to temptation, skip the primary and inaugurate Sen. Murkowski, let's remember that this is Alaska, where often enough conventional wisdom gets beaten to a fare-thee-well.

Jay Hammond began his campaign in 1974 as a long-shot candidate. He won the Republican primary and then unseated the much respected and loved Bill Egan in the general election and went on to serve two terms.

Scoffers greeted Walter Hickel's post-primary run for governor in 1990, with one state senator likening Mr. Hickel to an old dog howling at the moon. In December, the old dog took the oath of office.

John Lindauer spent a fortune to win the Republican nomination in 1998. When lies about that fortune unraveled his candidacy, all Tony Knowles had to do was smile and wait for election day.

So rather than say it's over, we will just say it looks like the lines are drawn for a good, hard, clean race in 2002 between two veterans of politics and public service with enough differences to make the race interesting.

But we are not ready to bet against surprises between now and November 2002. Conventional wisdom and smart money are not always synonymous in Alaska.

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