Unfortunately, gloves coming off in Alaska's senate race

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2004

Vantage Point by Robert Hale, publisher of the Juneau Empire.

With two months to go until the November general election, it looks like the gloves are coming off in the matchup between incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her Democratic challenger, former Gov. Tony Knowles. That's too bad; not for them, but for all of the rest of us who must endure the process as they make themselves look so good and each other look so rotten.

For so many of us the worst part about a race such as this one being waged by Murkowski and Knowles is the ceaseless television ads that portray each candidate as a tireless fighter for Alaska's economy, for job creation, for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for health care and for the state's veterans and teachers.

And now many of the television campaign ads run by the two candidates are beginning to depict the other guy as not being so business- or veteran- or job creation-oriented as they are. By mid-October, I predict, this race is going to be one of the ugliest on record, and both candidates will have had a hand in making it such.

Lisa Murkowski's ads show her in the oil fields, in the classroom and buddied up with veterans. Knowles is shown as a Vietnam veteran, as an oilfield roughneck and as an Alaska businessman. It's all very nice, but now the other side of the coin is getting air time.

The TV ads are taking on a new flavor; the nepotism issue, with Murkowski having been appointed to her seat by her father, who vacated the post when he was elected Alaska's governor in 2002. Knowles's Democratic connections in Washington are being called into question with regard to how he will or won't vote on drilling in ANWR. Soon, I suspect, each candidate's position on stem-cell research will be hotly debated (and if it's not, it certainly should be).

Already voters are saying it's ironic that, beneath their exteriors, Knowles is as conservative as he is and Murkowski is as liberal as she is. It would be more fitting, many say, if their party affiliations were transposed.

The U.S. Senate primary has come and gone and there is still much in the way of politics to be played in this race. By the time this one's over we'll all be sick of seeing and hearing Murkowski and Knowles both. That much is true.

There is some good news in all of this, however. Between now and the first Tuesday in November we'll at least have college and professional football to occupy our minds with more meaningful pursuits.

• Bob Hale is the publisher of the Juneau Empire

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