Two high-profile Democrats made moves Wednesday to become Alaska's next governor in 2010 and occupy the office held for a few more days by Gov. Sarah Palin.
Palin leaves office on Sunday. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who also plans to run, will be sworn in the same day.
Bob Poe, a former Department of Administration commissioner with a long record of public service, filed paperwork and paid his $100 fee at the Division of Elections office to officially declare his candidacy.
State Sen. Hollis French, 50, who oversaw the Troopergate investigation into Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner last year, also formally announced his candidacy Wednesday in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Poe, 54, said he decided to run because Palin was different after she returned to Alaska from being on the presidential campaign trail with Arizona Sen. John McCain.
"She had been kind of blinded by the big lights of national attention and had really moved on," Poe said.
Poe, who has served under four previous governors, said the ethics complaints -- cited by Palin as a reason for her early departure -- are not why she's leaving office.
"I think it is really that she wants to move on with her career and cash in on it while it is hot, so in my view she has left Alaska," he said.
Palin's attention has become increasingly divided between trying to further her own personal political career and serving the state, Poe said.
"I think we need a governor that is focused solely on Alaska," he said.
French, a lawyer and small-business owner, was also an assistant district attorney and clerked for a Superior Court judge before being elected to the state Senate in 2002. He has held production jobs with two energy companies. Twice he has summited Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain.
"I am going to be everywhere. I am going to be all over the state," French told a gathering of about 30 supporters in Anchorage as he officially announced his candidacy Wednesday afternoon. This followed a noontime announcement in Fairbanks.
French said he would bring a "laser beam like focus" to the problems of the state.
If elected, at the top of his priority list would be education, safe communities and the natural gas pipeline project.
French vowed to get the best deal possible to benefit the state of Alaska and its residents when negotiating with the oil industry on the pipeline's economic terms.
Poe said if he is elected he will focus on diversifying Alaska's economy and getting away from putting all the state's hopes on the natural gas pipeline project. Seafood, tourism, international trade and air cargo are vital parts of the Alaska economy that need to be strengthened, he said.
Poe has held numerous positions in state government, including administration commissioner, deputy commissioner of transportation and director of environmental conservation.
His private sector credentials include president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and senior consultant at Price Waterhouse.
"My half-public sector, half-private sector experience has taught me how to accomplish difficult things within a political environment," he said.
Poe was the first to announce his candidacy on Jan. 8. He said between now and the primary he plans on making hundreds of appearances.
Longtime Rep. John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, has said he would like to be Alaska's next governor.
Former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat from Anchorage who held the position of House minority leader, said he intends to become an official candidate in late summer or early fall.
Republican Gerald Heikes of Palmer, an Alaska Air National Guard veteran who previously was unsuccessful in a run for the U.S. Senate, also has his eye on the governor's office.
Robert Rosenfeld of Homer, a Democrat, also intends to seek the job.
More candidates are expected to emerge as the election approaches.