With 24 months to go in the Bill Walker Administration, Alaskans are already looking for an alternative. Mark Begich and Sen. Bill Wielechowski are said to be interested Democrats, but who among Republicans is queueing up to make a run for governor?
The list we posted earlier this week was by no means complete. Since then, readers have pointed out that there are a few other politicos and some business leaders who might challenge Walker, who is not a member of a political party and whose approval rating has slipped into the 30s, according to pollster Ivan Moore.
Our list continues, starting with those now holding public office:
Mike Chenault: Elected to the House in 2000, Speaker Mike Chenault of Nikiski is on everyone’s list as a possible contender for governor. He knows state government inside and out, has a political resume a mile long, projects an easy manner, is knowledgeable about the workings of government and is handing over the speaker’s gavel to Rep. Charisse Millett. He was on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board, the Kenai Fire Service Board, and was president of the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
- Strengths: Impressive political resume. Successful House speaker (most years). Some statewide name recognition. Respectable fundraising ability. Strong political base on the Kenai. Aw-shucks, down to earth style will appeal to many voters.
- Weaknesses: Maybe tied to the fiscal crisis, as leader of the House during the big spending years. 2018 will not be a good year for former legislators. Kenai political base would be split if Sen. Peter Micciche runs.
Peter Micciche: Senator Micciche is a centrist from the Kenai who served as the mayor of Soldotna as well as on the Soldotna City Council. He was elected to the Legislature in 2013. His management experience is impressive, having been the superintendent of the ConocoPhillips liquefied natural gas plant in Kenai for several years. He started his career with Phillips Petroleum in 1986 as a roustabout, working his way up. He also has a commercial salmon gillnetting permit.
- Strengths: Moderate politics, which may appeal to general election voters. Good grasp of private sector principles. Articulate. Intelligent. Kenai Peninsula base.
- Weaknesses: Statewide name recognition. Fundraising might be a challenge. Primary voters may be less drawn to his moderate place on the spectrum. Sometimes can be thin-skinned with the media.
Click Bishop: Senator Bishop of Fairbanks has a lot of experience in government, having been commissioner of Labor under Gov. Sean Parnell and having been a senator since 2013. He has strong ties in the labor arena as the administrator for Alaska Operating Engineers and Employers Training Trust, 1991-2006 and he’s from the Interior, an important part of the state. Plus, he is a heck of a nice guy.
- Strengths: Hails from Interior Alaska, which is often a battleground region in statewide races. Government experience. Would draw labor support, which would be helpful after the primary.
- Weaknesses: Little statewide name recognition. Strong labor ties may be a problem in the primary. Fundraising may be a challenge.
Business Leaders. The year 2018 could be a good year for political outsiders not tied to the fiscal crisis and unpopular decisions that are likely to be required:
Doug Smith: The former president of Little Red Services, an oil field services company, Smith sold the company to Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and is now president and CEO of AES, a subsidiary of ASRC. He’s taken public stances favoring SB 21, the More Alaska Production Act, as well as the need for state budget cuts.
- Strengths: Strong business credibility and management skills, having built a successful company. Would likely be in a position to dedicate some personal funds. Would draw support from the oil and gas service sector.
- Weaknesses: No name recognition outside of the oil and gas community. No political experience. Has never held office.
Scott Hawkins: Founder and CEO of Advanced Supply Chain International, co-founder of HAI Shirokuma tours, both successful companies, Hawkins also was founding president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. He founded the nonprofit Prosperity Alaska and his independent expenditure group, The Accountability Project, was instrumental in defeating Vince Beltrami, Harry Crawford (twice), Jim Colver, Luke Hopkins and others, preserving a Republican Senate and House.
- Strengths: Business credibility and management skills, successful businesses and nonprofits. Political fundraising ability and campaign experience. An economist who gets things done. Numerous sitting legislators are aware of what he has done for them.
- Weaknesses: Little name recognition outside of Anchorage. Has never held office. His independent expenditure work on legislative races would draw brickbats from the left.
Ralph Samuels: Once a candidate for governor, and a state representative from 2002-2008, Ralph Samuels is happy these days as the VP of government affairs for Holland America Princess Lines. A former airline executive for Penair, former chair of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and former board member of the State Chamber of Commerce, as a legislator, he was the only one who voted against Sarah Palin’s Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope, with $500 million in state funds.
- Strengths: Good name recognition, strong people skills, a natural in front of a crowd, he understands both state government and has strong chops when it comes to economic development. Has experience running statewide campaign. Can raise money. Demonstrates ability to take tough stances.
- Weaknesses: Doesn’t seem to want to run again. Would have to be drafted. Wife is an oil company lobbyist, which would draw brickbats from the left.