FAIRBANKS - U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski filed his paperwork Friday to run for governor in the 2002 election.
Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, filed in his hometown of Fairbanks. He was scheduled to meet with Native leaders Friday night before heading back to Washington over the weekend.
The state's slumping economy is the main reason Murkowski wants to leave his position in the Senate and return to Alaska, he said.
"Thirty-five thousand of our young people have left the state over the last eight years to seek better employment opportunities elsewhere. This tragic loss of the best and brightest of our youth has me deeply troubled," Murkowski said in a statement.
"Alaska's governor must have a vision for the future and the courage to act on it. I'm ready and willing to accept that responsibility," he said.
Murkowski was first elected to the Senate in 1980. He won re-election in 1986, 1992 and 1998.
Murkowski is considered the front-runner. His strongest challenger is Democrat Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who filed at the Division of Elections in Anchorage earlier this week.
Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, the 10th-highest ranking member of the House, has filed to run for a 16th term. Democrat Clifford Mark Greene, Green Party candidate Russell F. deForest, and Libertarian Rob Clift also are running.
The filing deadline to run in the Aug. 27 primary was 5 p.m. on Saturday.