Berkowitz files to run for governor in 2010

Former legislator says he will work to make state more self-reliant

Posted: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A third Democrat has jumped into the race for Alaska governor.

Former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz on Tuesday submitted a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission in Anchorage. He joins former Administration Commissioner Bob Poe and state Sen. Hollis French of Anchorage.

Berkowitz served in the state House of Representatives from 1996 to 2006, most of that time as minority leader. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006. Last year, he lost a race for Alaska's lone U.S. House seat to incumbent Republican Don Young.

Berkowitz said a theme of his campaign will be leadership.

"I want to make sure that Alaska can be more self-reliant than we have been," he said.

Alaska has become far too reliant on the federal government, he said.

"We have to ask permission from Outside corporations before we develop our own natural resources, and the special interests that control what goes on here in the state," he said. "That's not acceptable."

Alaska leads the nation in too many negative statistics, such as high power costs and low graduation rates.

The state has the resources for change, he said, citing energy challenges.

Alaska could have a "bullet line" for in-state natural gas and could develop its renewable resources. Railbelt peak energy consumption is about 800 megawatts, he said.

"If you develop a couple of wind farms along the way that's 100 to 150 megawatts of power. If you develop Mount Spur (geothermal), that's 150 megawatts of power. You develop (Lake) Chakachamna, that's another 250 or 250 megawatts of power. I haven't busted a sweat yet and I'm at 500 megawatts of power."

Tidal, small wind and in-stream hydro projects are also possibilities.

"They're sitting here in large part because the rules of developing them are unclear," he said. "As a consequence, investment dollars are not flowing to them."

There has not been leadership in Juneau to force the Legislature or the governor to address these issues, he said.

Berkowitz said he will let his record distinguish him from Democratic rivals Poe and French.

"I'm going to run my race. I'm going to talk about my vision and my values. I'm going to rely on the experience I've gained traveling around the state, working around the state."

Berkowitz is an attorney who is not practicing.

He is involved with a proposal for a 3,500-mile fiber optic underwater cable from Kodiak to Unalaska, through hub communities to Prudhoe Bay. The cable would bring high-speed broadband service to 140 communities and would be critical infrastructure for U.S. interests, he said.

A handful of others are in the race. Gerald Heikes is running as a Republican. Gov. Sean Parnell, who was elevated after Sarah Palin's midterm resignation in July, said he will run, as did state Rep. and former House Speaker John Harris of Valdez.

Donald Wright has filed to run on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket.

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