Alaska (Open Seat)
Outlook: Leans Republican
November 8, 2006 Update:
As the Crystal Ball predicted, Sarah Palin (R)
August 10, 2006 Update:
On Tuesday, August 8, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski publicly apologized for calling into question the accuracy of primary opponent John Binkley‘s resume during a televised debate featureing Murkoqski, Binkley and Sarah Palin. During the debate Binkley questioned the incumbent governor’s state jet use, and Murkowski responded by accusing him of misrepresenting his college transcript and high school graduation date.
August 2, 2006 Update:
One thing appears highly probable: Frank Murkowski is going to be a one-term governor. Currently he is running third in the GOP primary, trailing Sarah Palin and John Binkley. Palin is leading but Binkley is still in the race. Murkowski is having problems even raising money, which is a remarkable commentary on any incumbent governor. The Crystal Ball cannot remember when another incumbent governor, who was not under indictment, was running third in his own party’s primary for re-nomination to a second term.
The ultimate Democratic nominee, former governor Tony Knowles, would be in a superb position if he were to face Murkowski. Given that Murkowski will almost certainly not be the nominee, Knowles faces a real race with the eventual GOP standard bearer. But unlike almost any other Democrat in Alaska, Knowles will be an even-money bet to secure a third term.
June 1, 2006 Update:
In late May Frank Murkowski finally decided to run for a second term as governor. This came as a considerable surprise to many observers in Alaska who had assumed that the unpopular Murkowski would step down, especially since he is 73 years old. But old politicians die hard, and they rarely fade away–unless sent into oblivion by the voters. Murkowski has a potentially tough primary with John Binkley and Sarah Palin. In addition, if he survives the primary, he will undoubtedly face former governor Tony Knowles (D), who served from 1994-2002.
It is too soon to say whether Murkowski, currently one of the most unpopular governors in the country, can recover in time to win his primary and the general election. For now, until the dust settles, we will simply call it a toss-up.
March 27, 2006 Update:
This race is still frozen, and it will be for quite a while–not because of Alaska’s frigid temperatures, but because Governor Frank Murkowski has still not announced whether he will seek a second term.
It actually happened as forecast: Gov. Frank Murkowski was overwhelmingly defeated in the GOP primary, garnering just 19 percent of the vote. Denying him a second term was former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, whose 51 percent may well entitle her to frontrunner status in the general election against former Gov. Tony Knowles (D). Knowles won his primary, but his 74 percent as a former two-term Governor was somewhat underwhelming. A little known state legislator, Eric Croft, received 25 percent in the Democratic primary.
Murkowski thus becomes only the second Governor in twelve years to lose re-nomination. (The other was Gov. Bob Holden, D-MO, in 2004.) And it is difficult to find a modern precedent for a non-indicted incumbent governor faring this poorly among his own party’s voters. But then no other Governor appointed his daughter to his seat in the U.S. Senate as did “Murky” in 2002, after his election as Governor; Lisa Murkowski overcame the taint to win a full term narrowly (over Knowles) in 2004 during the Bush landslide in Alaska. Murkowski was also involved in controversy after controversy as Governor, from buying an expensive taxpayer-funded jet plane to cutting senior citizens’ prized benefits in this oil-rich state to unsuccessfully trying to arrange for a controversial gas pipeline.
At age 73, Frank Murkowski’s career is over, after 22 years as junior U.S. senator and four years as Governor. While the general election will be close, the Crystal Ball currently leans the race to Palin, who is a very conservative Republican and who could become Alaska’s first female Governor. If Knowles is to win, he will have to paint Palin as “extreme” and ride a national Democratic tide–if it ever reaches as far north as Alaska.
Every poll and sounding shows it. One-term Republican Governor Frank Murkowski is very unpopular, despite his nearly twenty-two years in the U.S. Senate (1981-2002) and easy victory for Governor in 2002. So what’s the problem? It’s partly personality, partly a rocky economy and partly his audacious appointment of his lightly-qualified daughter Lisa Murkowski to succeed him in the Senate. It’s possible Gov. Murkowski may not even run for a second term.
If he does seek a second term, you can expect a GOP primary and then a free-for-all in November 2006. The Republican nature of Alaska may save him, but Alaskans have proven perfectly willing to have Democratic state chief executives in recent times. The Governorship is less ideological than the U.S. Senate or House, and people everywhere realize that.
A common rumor in Alaska is that former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles, fresh from his defeat for the U.S. Senate in 2004, may try to recapture his previous office. Knowles lost the Senate seat by a narrow margin, and he would be the strongest possible candidate for the Democrats, should he decide to make this rumor a reality.
Tony Knowles – Democrat – former two-term governor and 2004 Dem. nominee for U.S. Senate
Sarah Palin – Republican – current Alaska oil and gas commission chair and former lt. gov. candidate
Andrew Halcro – Independent – businessman and former Republican state representative