Two Dems make moves in gov's race

Former Department of Administration commissioner files paperwork; Anchorage senator announces candidacy

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Two Democrats made moves Wednesday to become Alaska's governor in 2010 and occupy the office Republican Gov. Sarah Palin is giving up Sunday.

Eric Engman / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Eric Engman / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who also plans to run, will be sworn in the same day.

Bob Poe, a former Department of Administration commissioner with a long record of public service, filed paperwork and paid his $100 fee at the Division of Elections office to officially declare his candidacy.

State Sen. Hollis French, 50, who oversaw the Troopergate investigation into Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner last year, also formally announced his candidacy Wednesday in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Poe, 54, had announced his candidacy Jan. 8. He said he decided to run because Palin was different after she returned to Alaska from being on the presidential campaign trail with Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"I think we need a governor that is focused solely on Alaska," he said.

Poe has served under four previous governors. Poe said he plans to make hundreds of appearances before the primary.

French, a lawyer and small business owner, was also an assistant district attorney and clerked for a Superior Court judge before being elected to the state Senate in 2002. He has held production jobs with two energy companies. He has summited Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain, twice.

"I am going to be everywhere. I am going to be all over the state," French told a gathering of about 30 supporters in Anchorage as he officially announced his candidacy Wednesday, which followed a noontime announcement in Fairbanks. French is expected to be in Juneau today, speaking on the Capitol steps at noon and at the Silverbow Bakery at 5 p.m. French said he would bring a "laser beam-like focus" to the problems of the state.

If elected, at the top of his priority list would be education, safe communities and the natural gas pipeline project.

French vowed to get the best deal possible to benefit the state of Alaska and its residents when negotiating with the oil industry on the pipeline's economic terms.

Poe said if he is elected, he will focus on diversifying Alaska's economy and getting away from putting all the state's hopes on the natural gas pipeline project. Seafood, tourism, international trade and air cargo are vital parts of the Alaska economy that need to be strengthened, he said.

Poe has held numerous positions in state government, including administration commissioner, deputy commissioner of transportation and director of environmental conservation.

His private sector credentials include president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and senior consultant at Price Waterhouse.

"My half-public sector, half-private sector experience has taught me how to accomplish difficult things within a political environment," he said.

Longtime Rep. John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, has said he would like to be Alaska's next governor.

Former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat from Anchorage who held the position of House minority leader, said he intends to become an official candidate in late summer or early fall.

Republican Gerald Heikes, of Palmer, an Alaska Air National Guard veteran who previously was unsuccessful in a run for the U.S. Senate, also has his eye on the governor's office.

Robert Rosenfeld of Homer, a Democrat, also intends to seek the job. More candidates are expected to emerge as the election approaches.

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