JUNEAU (AP) -- Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski dismissed a report that Teamster official Jerry Hood would be a possible replacement to fill his U.S. Senate term if he's elected governor.
A Murkowski spokesman said the senator has not made a decision and disputed a Sunday Chicago Sun-Times column by conservative pundit Robert Novak.
''Basically, this is gossip mongering,'' Dan Saddler said Monday. ''I would say those who are speculating and passing rumors about (Murkowski's pick) are doing so without any justification or official direction from the candidate or campaign.''
Hood is secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 959 and a former Democratic National committeeman who has switched parties and campaigned for Murkowski.
Hood and Murkowski have worked in concert to muster support in Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The Alaska Teamsters endorsed Murkowski's bid for governor.
Contacted at his Anchorage office, Hood said he was both amused and flattered by his mention in the column. He said there is no basis for the story.
Novak's column, which is being circulated by the campaign of Democrat opponent Fran Ulmer, cites unnamed labor sources who say Alaska's congressional delegation has also agreed to the pick.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens denied he has had such a discussion with Murkowski.
Murkowski has said he would pick someone who shares his political views, can win re-election in 2004 and can serve long enough to gain seniority in the Senate.
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