Murkowski to unveil re-election plans today

Even family members say they don't knows the governor's plans

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

Gov. Frank Murkowski planned to announce his re-election intentions today, and not even his family knew what his decision would be.

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The governor's office issued a release Thursday that said the 73-year-old Republican incumbent will make the announcement at a Fairbanks restaurant early in the morning, and from there he will fly to Anchorage for a bill signing.

Fairbanks Republican Wo-men's Club secretary Mike Dalton told The Associated Press that she spoke to Murkowski's daughter, Eileen VanWhye, who told her of the governor's plan. Even VanWhye didn't know whether the governor planned to run again, Dalton said.

"I asked his daughter which way he is going to go," Dalton said. "She said he has two speeches prepared. Nobody knows."

Dalton said she was asked to spread the word among the party faithful in Fairbanks about the governor's speech.

The state Division of Elections reported Thursday afternoon that Murkowski had not filed a declaration of candidacy, which is a necessary step in running for office in Alaska.

The filing deadline is June 1.

Speculation has raged for months on whether the governor planned to run again. He had originally said he would announce his intentions last fall. He broke that self-imposed deadline, setting a new one for January.

That date came and went without an announcement.

A major reason for the delays has been the governor's focus on the natural gas contract he had been negotiating with the state's three largest oil producers. That contract sets the financial terms between the state and BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. for the companies to build a gas pipeline from the North Slope to Canada or Chicago.

The pipeline, which would be the largest construction project in the nation's history, has been long coveted by the state. Murkowski appeared with executives from the three companies on Wednesday to announce they had completed their agreement.

The Legislature has to review and ratify a contract. But the contract doesn't guarantee a pipeline: the decision to invest the $19 billion to $27 billion won't come until four or five years after the contract is signed and the permitting and design is completed.

In the meantime, other would-be Republican candidates who had been waiting for a decision from the governor have moved ahead without him. John Binkley of Fairbanks announced his candidacy earlier this year and leads all candidates in money raised.

Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, had earlier said he was thinking about running for governor, but would not if Murkowski ran again. Seekins more recently said he believes Murkowski will run for re-election, and he is focused on keeping his Senate seat.

Just Lt. Gov. Loren Leman has not announced whether he plans to run for governor. He had scheduled an announcement in February, but then delayed, saying he needed more time to talk it over with his family.

Sarah Palin of Wasilla is the other Republican who has announced her candidacy for governor.

Anchorage Reps. Ethan Berkowitz and Eric Croft are running for the Democratic nomination.

Former legislator and Anchorage businessman Andrew Halcro is running as an independent candidate.

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