ANCHORAGE - Democratic Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer is looking to the Grand Old Party to muster support for her bid as Alaska's next governor.
Ulmer on Tuesday announced "Republicans for Ulmer," a group that will cross party lines to boost her candidacy.
Former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr. is chairman of "Republicans for Ulmer."
"This election is not about which party is best," Thomas said. "It's about what candidate is best for the people of Alaska."
State Republican Chairman Randy Ruedrich said he does not expect a lot of defections from the party ranks. And once the Republican primary is settled, he said, he expects Democrats who disagree with Ulmer's principles to form a "Democrats for Frank Murkowski" or "Democrats for Wayne Anthony Ross" group.
The most prominent name on the Republicans for Ulmer steering committee is former Gov. Jay Hammond, one of Ulmer's campaign co-chairmen. Hammond was governor from 1974 to 1982. Ulmer worked for Hammond from 1974 to 1981, first as a legislative assistant and then as director of policy development and planning.
Hammond told a luncheon audience of mostly Democrats that Ulmer is the best-qualified to solve the No. 1 problem facing Alaska: closing the gap between spending and income.
Hammond said that any politician who advocated a flat income tax of $1,500 per Alaskan, rich, poor, young or old, would be ridden out of town on a rail. However, that will be the effect on permanent fund dividends unless a fiscal plan is adopted.
Joining Hammond and Thomas at the head table were former state Rep. Helen Beirne, broadcasting pioneer Augie Hiebert, Bristol Bay fisherman and Native leader Trefon Angasan, plus longtime Republicans Karin Have and Bonnie Jack.
Ulmer field director Diana Rhoades said the group will develop mailings and other tactics to urge Republicans to vote for Ulmer.
State GOP chairman Ruedrich's reaction to prominent Republicans such as Hammond and Thomas backing Ulmer?
"As far as I can see, that's a very personal thing," Ruedrich said. "Fran worked in their administration and they're personal friends."
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