Former Republican state Rep. Ralph Samuels is considering a challenge of Gov. Sarah Palin in next year's election, and Valdez Republican Rep. John Harris says he plans to run for governor if Palin doesn't.
Potential candidates of both parties are giving serious thought to next year's race for governor. Democrats Bob Poe and Rob Rosenfeld have already filed to run. Sen. Hollis French and former state House minority leader Ethan Berkowitz, both Democrats, have said they're considering it.
No one has filed as a Republican to run for governor yet. But Samuels confirmed he's giving serious thought to a run.
"If you're interested in public policy in Alaska and concerned about the state, I think that's the job you have the most say and can best lead the debate on public policy issues," Samuels said.
Samuels is the former House majority leader. He sparred with Palin when he was in the Legislature, particularly on natural gas pipeline issues.
Samuels said he won't decide before the end of the summer and likes his job with Holland America as its vice president for external relations.
Harris, a former Republican House speaker, said he's thinking about running for governor as well, but only if Palin doesn't seek re-election.
"I'm not running head to head with the governor, but if the governor doesn't run I probably will," Harris said.
Palin had a 54 percent positive and 41.6 negative rating in the latest publicly released poll measuring her popularity among Alaskans. The Hays Research poll, a month ago, showed the governor's numbers down dramatically from 86 percent positive almost exactly a year before.
But Palin's poll numbers are still good, Harris said. Also, the Hays poll didn't differentiate between Democrats, independents and Republicans. Any Republican who challenged Palin would have to do so in a Republican primary closed to voters from other parties.
Andrew Halcro, a former Republican legislator and Palin critic, said he hasn't decided his future plans. Halcro ran against Palin as an independent in 2006 and his supporters have urged another run. Other names often mentioned as possible Republican candidates for governor include banker Ed Rasmuson and John Binkley, who came in second to Palin in the 2006 Republican primary.
Rasmuson didn't return a phone call seeking comment.
Binkley said in an e-mail he is focused on overcoming prostate cancer. The cancer is considered aggressive but was caught early on, said Binkley, and the prognosis for complete remission is very good. Binkley, who is in Houston undergoing two months of treatment, said he has not made any decision on the 2010 governor's race.
"It was a privilege to run for governor during the last campaign; Judy and I were humbled by the support we had and enjoyed meeting thousands of people around the state. With the filing deadline nearly a year away, there is plenty of time to make that decision," Binkley said.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.