FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski on Friday attempted to debunk rumors that Gov. Tony Knowles is a top candidate to become either energy or interior secretary.
''Senator Murkowski has been in contact at the highest levels with the Bush transition team and been told that Governor Knowles has not been under consideration,'' said David Garman, Murkowski's chief of staff.
Knowles has been at the forefront of national media lists for a Cabinet post, particularly as a candidate for energy secretary. His name was mentioned Friday on NBC's ''Today Show'' and on the Cable News Network.
During the presidential campaign Bush said one of his top energy priorities would be to push to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration and development. The Republican Bush also said he intends to appoint some Democrats to his Cabinet, though none has been named so far.
Fueling speculation is the fact that Knowles and Bush were fraternity brothers at Yale.
The governor's spokesman, Bob King, said there has been no discussion of an appointment offered to Knowles.
''All I can say is that we have consistently said that Governor Knowles has not yet been contacted by the president-elect or his transition team regarding any possible Cabinet post,'' King said.
King has been fielding a large number of phone calls on the matter.
''Over the last few days, most of this week, it's been the majority of phone calls (to the press office),'' he said. ''Many calls from in-state media as well as reporters from the Washington, D.C. area -- Reuters, The Associated Press, MSNBC ...''
King said the only talk that he has heard about a Knowles Cabinet appointment is through the media.
''As far as I know this has always been media speculation from the beginning and there has not been any substance to it,'' King said. ''That's what we've been telling the press all along.''
Knowles last week sent a letter of congratulations to Bush. He said that he wants to work with the new president to develop Alaska's resources in an environmentally responsible fashion.
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