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Although he doesn't have to win a primary to earn a spot on November's general election ballot, independent gubernatorial candidate Andrew Halcro has a different race to run.
As independents, Halcro and running mate Ken Lancaster must separately collect 3,145 signatures by primary day Tuesday to get their names on the ballot in November. That number is 1 percent of Alaska's 2004 election turnout.
After a late start this summer, both will be working overtime these last days to meet the deadline.
"We do expect to get there in the next few days. We're really pushing hard," Halcro said Thursday. "I'm positive we're gong to make it. We're not taking any chances."
Halcro couldn't begin collecting signatures until he and a running mate had filed with the Division of Elections. Lancaster agreed to run on the independent ticket with him for lieutenant governor at the end of May, so signature collecting did not begin until mid-June.
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After checking in with his volunteers in July, Halcro said he was surprised at how few signatures had been collected.
Since then, Halcro said he and Lancaster have made up a lot of ground. He estimated his collected signatures at about 3,000 and Lancaster maybe 300 less. Halcro will work through the weekend in Anchorage to collect above the required number in case the Division of Elections invalidates some. Lancaster will do the same in Kenai.
Halcro, 41, was a Republican in the state Legislature from 1999 to 2003, and he runs his family's Anchorage rental car business, Alaska Rent A Car Inc.
If Halcro is on November's ballot, he figures to be a wild card that could affect the outcome of the election.
But Halcro doesn't want to be Alaska's Ralph Nader, the independent presidential candidate blamed by some for siphoning votes from Al Gore in Florida and giving the 2000 election to George Bush. Halcro said he's in it to win, regardless of who emerges from the two main political parties' primary elections on Tuesday.
Once the primaries are over, Halcro predicts a dramatic realignment of voters. If Sarah Palin wins the Republican nomination, he said, supporters of incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski and John Binkley of Fairbanks may support him.
On the Democratic side, if former Gov. Tony Knowles wins, state Rep. Eric Croft's supporters may do the same.
"I think I'll draw from both sides. I think I'll draw equally from Republican and Democrats," he said.
As an interested observer of the primary campaigns, Halcro said he has been disappointed by the "mind-numbing" candidate forums in which other hopefuls have run "based on glittering generalities."
"It sounds eerily like 2002. They are promising the people what they want to hear, and nobody is saying how they're going to pay for it or if it's even possible," Halcro said.