Race for Alaska governor should be one of the best

Alaska editorial

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2006

This editorial appeared in The Voice of the Times:

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Labor Day was the kickoff of this fall's race for the governor's office, and Democratic nominee Tony Knowles was first out of the blocks, using the occasion to launch two different TV commercials. More will flood the airways in the weeks to come, from Knowles and his two major opponents, Republican choice Sarah Palin and independent Andrew Halcro.

For Alaskans of all political persuasions - and for those to whom political campaigns are normally of little interest - the race ahead shapes up as one of the most interesting in the state's history.

Alaska has seen a lot of rollicking campaigns for governor in the nearly 48 years since the advent of statehood.

Knowles, who twice won election as governor, obviously is no newcomer to the battlefield. Palin is still a virtual rookie in statewide political warfare, but during the Republican primary she bested incumbent Frank Murkowski, a veteran of nearly 22 years in the U.S. Senate who has served four years as the head man in Juneau, as well as John Binkley, a highly respected former two-term state senator. Halcro, who was a Republican member of the state House for two terms, won his place on the ballot as an independent - a tough hurdle in normal circumstances, but one he cleared with ease.

The conventional political wisdom would say that Knowles is the betting choice, with his challengers facing difficult odds.

But wisdom also cautions that he probably is no shoo-in.

Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, ran a powerful campaign during the primary, backed by an army of supporters who rattled the GOP rafters with enthusiastic zeal. She brings a fresh face to the campaign, with a strong possibility that many Alaska voters - oblivious of party allegiance - feel the time has come for the 49th state to turn the governor's office over to a woman.

Halcro must not be overlooked, either. His bid will be uphill as an independent, but he's a smart and aggressive businessman who brings to the race legislative service that was marked by a willingness to go his own way and take stands apart from his fellow lawmakers.

The hope is that the race will be run on the high road, and that ugly and acrimonious accusations will be noted largely by their absence. Voters weary quickly of dirty campaigns.

Don't bet the farm on the outcome of this race. It could be a barn burner.

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