ANCHORAGE - Two Republican front-runners vying to become Alaska's next lieutenant governor are such forceful personalities, voters might wonder why they're seeking a low-profile job instead of the top elected office.
But state Rep. Jay Ramras of Fairbanks and GOP stalwart Mead Treadwell of Anchorage say the role they envision would suit them perfectly and give them a platform to make Alaska a better state economically. Both add, however, they'd also be qualified to be governor should history repeat itself and they had to step up as then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell did when Gov. Sarah Palin resigned last summer.
"But I don't anticipate it," Ramras said Thursday. "It was very unusual circumstances."
Current Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who was appointed to replace Parnell, chose not to run in Tuesday's primary.
Ramras, 46, is a three-term representative and is currently chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Ramras, who is single, owns Pike's Waterfront Lodge, Pike's Landing and the Food Factory restaurant in Fairbanks. His lengthy business history gives him a "great sensitivity" to how important trade is to Alaska, how crucial to strengthen the state's relationship with Pacific Rim nations, he said.
The lieutenant governor's office oversees the state Division of Elections and keep tabs on initiatives filed by voters, among other responsibilities. But Ramras, a lifelong Alaskan, also believes it's an apt bully pulpit.
"I clearly understand that you have the duties as defined by the Alaska state Constitution," Ramras said. "And there are duties assigned by the governor and then the opportunity to imprint the job with your own life experience."
Ramras advocates an in-state bullet line as the answer for how best to transport Alaska's natural gas to the market place, according to his campaign's website.
"Our community's mantra ought to be: First Gas to Fairbanks in Five Years," the website states.
Treadwell, who resigned as chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission earlier this year to pursue his first election campaign, believes the lieutenant governor's office can be expanded by serving as an adviser to the governor. He said past holders of the job have played crucial roles in the state's development.
In today's Alaska, he wants a role in opening more North Slope development to counter diminishing supplies, build a long-awaited natural gas pipeline and diversify the state's economy. These are issues he said can be tackled as lieutenant governor, even though they're not listed as official duties of the office.
"I'm not running to be put in a box," he said.
Treadwell, a widower with three children, has lived in Alaska for more than 30 years. He is the CEO of the Anchorage technology investment firm Venture Ad Astra, senior fellow at the Anchorage think tank Institute of the North. In the early 1990s, he was deputy commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation under Gov. Wally Hickel.
The job of lieutenant governor is akin to being a co-pilot, Treadwell said.
"If you get into an airplane and a co-pilot is not capable of landing the airplane or get the airplane where you want to go, get off the airplane," he said. "And if the pilot says to the co-pilot, 'Sit on your hands, I've got the stick,' that's fine. I'm happy to do that. There's plenty of other work to be done."
Treadwell was initially endorsed by a conservative group over fellow GOP candidate Eddie Burke, who formerly hosted a conservative radio talk show. But the tea party-style Conservative Patriots Group, rooted in Palin's hometown of Wasilla, withdrew its backing over Treadwell's past support for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The group supports Murkowski's primary challenger, Joe Miller.
Burke, 48, said he did not seek the Conservative Patriots endorsement after the group rescinded its support for Treadwell. But the Anchorage resident, in his first run for state office, said he has been endorsed by Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer and the Alaska Right to Life organization, and the National Rifle Association has given him an "A" rating.
"I think it's pretty reasonable to say that I'm the most conservative person in this race," said Burke, who is married with four children. He said he sees the role of lieutenant governor being an advocate of the governor he would serve with and an advocate of resource development statewide, an official who would speak up if government planned "to spend more money than we have coming in."
Burke "has supported recent administrations in their attempts to deliver Alaska's natural gas to outside markets," his website states. However, his website does not offer a specific proposal he either backs or opposes.
"When Alaskans hear someone discuss an 'in-state gas line' that ends in their hometown," he states on his website, "they should ask him: 'How much will this cost the rest of the State?'"
Treadwell has largely financed his own run, putting in about $291,100 overall, according to financial disclosures due to the state the week before the primary. He also reported raising $87,970 in other contributions.
Ramras reported raising nearly $344,900 overall for the race; he chipped in $120,000, and had about $24,800 on hand as of a week out.
Burke has raised about $13,000 and kicked in $2,000 of his own money, according to the disclosures. He reported $1,600 on hand.
Others on the Republican primary ballot are Burke and Bob Lupo.