Saturday, August 11, 2007

Are John Binkley, John Harris, And Loren Leman Contemplating A Run Against Don Young And Ted Stevens In The 2008 Alaska Republican Primary?

As if Alaska's Republican Congressman Don Young doesn't have enough to worry about being targeted not only by an investigation, but also by two serious Democratic oppnents, Jake Metcalfe and Diane Benson, some prominent Republicans may be starting to "mark their territories" in preparation for a possible run. Republican Senator Ted Stevens may also be a target, although unlike Young, he has no Democratic opponents yet, although Ted Gianoutsos of the Veterans Party of Alaska is running against him. Click HERE for full story from KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage.

Prompted by the recent Don Young "Pig Roast" hosted by former Democratic Governor Bill Sheffield at his Anchorage home and the noisy protest demonstration that took place outside the premises, some prominent Alaska Republicans spoke out on the situation. None declared actual intent yet, but if the ongoing investigations appear to further weaken either Young or Stevens, that could change. Both Young, who's been in office since 1973, and Stevens, who's served in the Senate 39 years, are under investigation by the FBI for their ties to former VECO chairman Bill Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators.

Speaking out first was Republican Governor Sarah Palin, so far the most popular elected official in state history, who said that barring a cataclysmic change in Alaska's political landscape, she will not be a candidate next year for the U.S. House or Senate. But Palin characterized the protest at the "Pig Roast" as a sign that Alaskans are growing tired to how these investigations are affecting Alaska's image.

Governor Palin has also been the target for speculation that she might accept the number two spot on a Republican Presidential ticket, most of it spawned by a Palin for VP blog. She's expressed no interest in that, either.

However, three other prominent Republicans were not so fervent in their denials. Former gubernatorial candidate John Binkley, who finished a credible and competitive second behind Palin in the August 2006 Republican primary, agrees with Palin that the public is upset. "They don't like the back room deals that have been cut. I think there have been errors in judgment in people as they've dealt with people like Bill Allen, and what that's caused for our state, for our delegation. And they want a change. They don't want to see that business as usual," Binkley said.

Likewise, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman is not immediately planning to run against either Young or Stevens, but also says that's subject to change. "And if nothing changes that would suggest, that would make them vulnerable to changing, then I don't think I would be in that race. But I am interested in serving in additional statewide office. I loved serving as lieutenant governor. I love the people of Alaska. It was a great opportunity to serve and if the right opportunity is there for me, then I well could be in the race," Leman said.

[Ed. Note: The above statement is a bit confusing. It sounds like he's saying that if Sarah Palin decides to run for Congress, he would run to replace her as governor.]

House Speaker John Harris, who represents House District 12 (Valdez) also is taking a wait-and-see approach, saying he's not running against Young yet, despite speculation to the contrary. "I don't intend to. And the only way that I would do that is if there were some issue that came that was above and beyond what's out there now, that the Alaska people lost confidence in the congressman. I don't know if that's the case at this point. I don't see it. But it could be," Harris said.

So far, both Stevens and Young have declined to make any comment on the FBI investigation, except to say they can't comment, possibly on the advice of legal counsel.

Commentary: John Harris is probably the least likely to run against either Stevens or Young. He not only has a safe state House seat, but wields considerable influence as House Speaker. Only if either Stevens or Young were to actually step down might he consider a run.

Loren Leman doesn't impress me as being too serious about running either. We've heard little from him since he left office in January 2007.

John Binkley might actually follow through. His second place finish in the August 2006 Republican primary not only was credible, but gave him valuable name recognition. Plus he also avoided seriously pissing anyone off in the process, so's he's reasonably well-regarded. It's too early to say whether he would target either Stevens or Young, though. Binkley formerly served in both the State House and the Senate.

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