ANCHORAGE - Not even a day had passed since Alaska's primary and already campaign barbs were being flung Wednesday between Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and the Democrat who wants to replace him, Ethan Berkowitz.
Fresh from Tuesday's GOP victory, Parnell said he and the Republican choice for lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, offer leadership best suited to deliver what Alaskans want - unlike Berkowitz and the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, Diane Benson. Parnell, a lieutenant governor who inherited the top job when former Gov. Sarah Palin resigned last summer, said his opponent is squarely in President Barack Obama's corner.
"Clearly, the Berkowitz-Benson team is aligned with the Obama administration on resource management issues, on health care, on spending," he said at a post-win news conference with Treadwell. "We're different. I think we're more aligned with Alaska values when it comes to developing our resources, unlocking the potential there so we unleash the potential for our families and our people here to have jobs."
Berkowitz, a former state House minority leader, said that unlike Parnell, he is his own man who is "not beholden to anybody, not Sarah Palin, not Barack Obama, not anybody." He said Parnell is turning to politics as usual and trying to distract from his failures as a leader.
"I will also point out that Sean Parnell is a nice guy," he said. "But he's not tough enough and he's not real leadership material. Alaska deserves a lot better than he's offering."
During the campaign leading up to the primary, Parnell fended off such criticism that he's not bold enough for the job. But he handily defeated a field of challengers, including former legislator Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker, an Anchorage attorney who kicked in hundreds of thousands of his own dollars to wage a hard-hitting campaign.
Parnell on Wednesday addressed another campaign criticism, that he was a debate dodger. He called those claims unfounded and said he had to balance debate appearances with running the state.
"I participated in 12 debates," he said. "The issue is not how many debates when you're talking about participating in 12 or 15. The issue is whether the public has had adequate opportunity to gauge and evaluate you."
Berkowitz has made unsuccessful bids for lieutenant governor and U.S. House. He also faced competition from state Sen. Hollis French in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Benson also has waged unsuccessful bids to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
Berkowitz, who wants to overhaul how the state taxes its oil and natural gas to provide more stable revenue, said he's met with Benson to discuss their upcoming efforts and the two plan to campaign across the state.
"We met under the crucible of competition and we have forged a friendship," he said. "It's going to be an exciting run."