You can feel it in the air - and see it in print and hear it on television and radio. It's the quickening tempo of what will, by all accounts, be a monster campaign for one of Alaska's seats in the U.S. Senate.
The early favorites, Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski and former Democratic governor Tony Knowles, sparred this week over how to better care for the nation's veterans. Each is on the road this holiday weekend, traveling to several communities looking for support. And, in the digital world, each campaign's Web site is busy slugging at the opposition. Consider these two electronic examples:
From Sen. Murkowski's Web site: "No matter what Tony calls himself he cannot separate himself from John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle and the rest of the anti-Alaska liberal Senate caucus."
From Mr. Knowles' campaign Web site, which features an area it says is devoted to pointing out deficiencies in Sen. Murkowski's statements: "Sometimes what politicians say isn't exactly clear. You might even say that their explanations are often 'murky."'
Mr. Knowles and Sen. Murkowski are far from the only candidates, however. Alaskans by now know that former Republican state Sen. Mike Miller, who once served as Senate president, has entered the race. But there are several other candidates of varying level of notoriety, though most have run for statewide office previously and drawn little voter interest. Who knows, additional candidates may file by the June 1 deadline.
Alaskans can expect a campaign like none seen in recent years given the national implications that come from a narrowly divided Senate. With activity already heated, the post-primary campaigns will likely be even more fevered.
The proof is in the money: As of March 31, Sen. Murkowski had raised $2.42 million for her election effort since being appointed in 2002, according to the latest reports from the Federal Election Commission. Mr. Knowles, whose campaign announcement came months later, had raised $1.76 million, according to the FEC. The combined total is well ahead of the amounts raised in prior campaigns.
The amount of money coming is expected but nevertheless extraordinary, even in a state accustomed to bigness.
Alaskans should hope that the money buys truth - and not the distortions, omissions and outright lies that too often mar political campaigns around the country.
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