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Candidates pull for votes

Knowles finds favor from the center; Croft looks to fringe

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2006

While gubernatorial candidate Tony Knowles is drawing supporters near the political center, his opponent Rep. Eric Croft is not afraid to embrace backers from the political fringe, said political science professor Carl Shepro of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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Croft, a Democrat, said he's getting support from Green Party and Libertarian members, two political groups whose philosophies typically clash.

"I'm not afraid to tell the government to stay out of my bedroom and to stay out of my gun pantry," said Croft, on why he's drawing in some Libertarians.

His opponent in the Democratic primary, former governor Knowles, has endorsements and contributions from several Democratic heavyweights. These include Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, of Anchorage; Sen. Kim Elton, of Juneau; Rep. Beth Kerttula, of Juneau; Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and North Pole Mayor Jeff Jacobson.

"Tony has never been an extremist person. By nature, he's been a centrist," said Knowles' campaign spokeswoman Patty Ginsburg.

The Democratic primary on Aug. 22 is not expected to be a nail biter like the Republican race, which includes former state legislator John Binkley, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski.

A July poll done by Anchorage firm Craciun Research showed Knowles winning 65 percent of the vote and Croft 12 percent, while 21 percent of voters are undecided.

Some of Croft's votes could be coming from the far left, Shepro said.

The Green Party has not officially announced who it favors in the Democrat primary, said Jim Sykes, one of the Alaska party's founders. But Croft has done a better job than Knowles of sticking up for Green values, such as clean water, clean air, creating sustainable economies and protecting small businesses, he said.

Knowles has raised $269,431 for his campaign, while Croft has raised $152,619, according to the latest filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on July 24.

Croft's political backers include Rep. Harry Crawford of Anchorage and Alaska Constitution signer Vic Fischer.

"We face the 'Cheers' syndrome where everybody knows his name," said Croft of his opponent.

Both Democratic candidates are from Anchorage and will have to battle for votes there.

"I think Knowles' two terms as governor, two terms as mayor of Anchorage and four years as an Anchorage Assembly member have served him well," said Ginsburg, of her candidate's favorability in the state's largest city.

Croft says Anchorage is still "the biggest nut to crack." He plans to finish his campaign tour in the Southcentral city.

'We're having tremendous success in other parts of the state," said Croft, adding he thinks he will pick up votes in Fairbanks, coastal communities such as Juneau, and Bush villages.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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