ANCHORAGE - Sen. Frank Murkowski said today he is leaning toward running for governor but will put off a decision in order to focus on efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration.
Murkowski said the change in leadership in the Senate, and the House vote last week to open ANWR to oil and gas drilling, have changed his timetable. He said previously that he would announce his decision in September.
At a news conference in Anchorage, Murkowski said his decision to delay an announcement isn't due to lack of interest. But now isn't the time to make a decision, he said.
"We're going to have to spend all of our time and attention on getting this through the Senate," Murkowski said.
While the ANWR drilling provision in the president's energy bill won approval last week in the House, Senate opponents have promised a filibuster.
Murkowski said he feels confident he can win support for the measure in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which he sits. Drilling proponents are looking at various ways to maneuver the bill through the Senate to avoid a filibuster.
Murkowski also said he has invited President Bush to visit ANWR when the president passes through Alaska in October on his way to China. The White House has not yet responded to the invitation, he said.