Friday, May 03, 2013

Sean Parnell Decides Not To Challenge Mark Begich For The U.S. Senate, Will Run For Re-Election As Governor Of Alaska

On Friday May 3rd, 2013, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell announced his future political plans during the Alaska Federation of Republican Women’s convention in Fairbanks. And he decided to take the easier road and run for re-election to his existing post rather than challenge Democrat Mark Begich for his U.S. Senate seat. The first real media story has been published by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner; the Anchorage Daily News has followed with its own story and the public comments are already piling up.

Parnell said he's not ready to take the distraction of another race right now, preferring to focus on Alaskans and his current job. The senatorial field is already filling up on the Republican side, with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller having launched "exploratory committees", the first serious step towards any candidacy. Another rumored to be interested is Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, although he's not disclosed any plans. In addition, the Tea Party Leadership Fund is trying to prod Sarah Palin into running for the U.S. Senate, but Palin has remained mum on any specific plans. An unscientific poll currently in progress by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner indicates that 36.8 percent would choose Mark Begich, 25.7 percent would vote for Palin, and only 8.6 percent would support Joe Miller; a whopping 28.9 percent say None Of The Above.

In contrast, the only other declared candidate for governor at this point in time is Bill Walker, who finished second behind Parnell in the 2010 Republican primary. While the All-Alaska Gasline is still Walker's primary interest, he intends to address other issues much more vigorously this time around, and is expected to pose a stronger challenge to Parnell.

Gov. Parnell became governor when Sarah Palin resigned in 2009. He then won a full four-year term in 2010 and is eligible to run for a second full term in 2014. Initially, he struggled to gain traction for his priorities against a bipartisan-controlled Senate in recent years, but found more success during the most recent session when redistricting delivered a Republican-led Senate. Parnell and the Republican-dominated chambers of the Legislature passed significant big-ticket legislation, including an oil tax cut (SB21) and continuation of work on a small-diameter natural gas pipeline. But Alaska Dispatch cites some challenges Parnell will face if re-elected, to include balancing a ballooning state budget with an estimated $1 billion or more shortfall in oil revenues, as well as a possible referendum vote on his oil-tax reform bill. Opponents of SB21 want a repeal referendum place on the 2014 ballot hoping that voters will kill the bill; their campaign is called Vote Yes -- Repeal The Giveaway.

But Gov. Parnell has also received props for standing up to the federal leviathon lately. In the most recent development, he sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell stating Alaska will not repay $825,000 in Federal funds sent to Alaska to pay for schools, roads, search and rescue operations in rural counties, and conservation projects. Tidwell sent 41 states letters asking for the return of $17.9 million disbursed to them because of automatic federal budget cuts triggered by sequestration. Parnell doesn't believe the Forest Service is authorized to demand the money back, and won't ask the state legislature to consider the request. Furthermore, the National Governors Association has requested legal justification for the agency's demand. Governor Parnell has also indicated his willingness to sign HB69, the federal gun law nullification bill passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the legislature during this year's session. Parnell has also been representing Alaska's interests outside the United States in order to score billions of dollars of new economic opportunities for Alaska; he just returned from visiting top European oil producers Norway and the United Kingdom to see what Alaska's new oil tax cuts may mean for the North Slope. The U.K. has passed several oil tax changes recently, so Parnell can use those to better gauge the possible effects of SB21.

Either Sean Parnell or Bill Walker would serve the Last Frontier well as governor; it's too early to make a choice.

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