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Running for governor in a state where gun control more often refers to marksmanship than new laws, Fran Ulmer would like to downsize a bit.
The Democrat gubernatorial candidate took time while campaigning in Galena last week to shop for a new, smaller handgun.
Ulmer received her concealed handgun permit earlier this month and said she would like to find a gun she can carry while campaigning. Her .44-caliber Magnum revolver is perfect for bear protection, but not understated enough to be worn under a suit coat or carried in a purse, she said.
"Obviously, it needs to be a small, light handgun that isn't so awkward to carry that I wouldn't end up carrying it," Ulmer said.
While Ulmer said her stop at a Galena gun shop was not part of her campaign, a Murkowski spokesman dismissed it as a campaign stunt and disputed her record on gun control. The Knowles-Ulmer administration favored a plan to destroy confiscated weapons rather than sell them at auction, said Murkowski spokesman Dan Saddler.
"I think this is a pure campaign ploy, trying to get her picture in the paper carrying a gun," Saddler said.
Murkowski, Ulmer and more than a dozen others are vying to replace two-term Gov. Tony Knowles.
Ulmer hopes to become the first woman elected to the office in the state's history. And in a conservative state where candidates are adept at honing their anti-gun control messages, Ulmer too has gotten into the act.
She said she is opposed to any new laws restricting gun owners and her recent campaign newsletter highlights her "anti gun control message." The Ulmer campaign took top honors at the July 13 Bear Paw Festival parade with a float depicting the candidate hunting for bears, the newsletter said.
Ulmer notes she grew up hunting and fishing with her father in Wisconsin and also has occasionally hunted for deer in Alaska with her husband.
As minority leader in the state House in 1994, she voted in favor of the state's concealed handgun permit law, she said.
She said no threats have been made against her. But she said she expects to frequently travel alone during the campaign and would like "a little extra insurance."
Ulmer faces political longshots Michael Beasley and Bruce Lemke for her party's nomination in the Aug. 27 primary, but she is expected to have a tough fight in the Nov. 5 general election.
The Republican front-runner is U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, who also faces opposition from several candidates including Wayne Anthony Ross, a board member of the National Rifle Association.
Ross, attorney for the Alaska Gun Collectors Association, filed a suit Knowles-Ulmer critics said forced the state to sell rather than destroy some confiscated, surplus and unclaimed guns to licensed dealers.
Illegal guns such as sawed-off shotguns and fully automatic weapons are still destroyed.