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Alaska GOP hears first pitches from potential 2018 candidates for governor

Republican donors got their first formal pitches from next year's potential Alaska gubernatorial candidates at a closed-door briefing Sunday in Anchorage.

Investor Bob Gillam, former state Sens. Charlie Huggins and John Binkley, current Wasilla state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and businessman Scott Hawkins each made speeches to the group of four-dozen Republicans, according to conservative news site Must Read Alaska.

None of the men committed to running, but each spoke and took questions for 30 minutes, the site reported.

The gathering was at the South Anchorage home of Mike Porcaro, the political consultant and talk radio host. He said it was organized by the state Republican Party.

"It wasn't my party," Porcaro said in a phone interview Monday. "People just wanted to use my home."

Republicans are eagerly awaiting the 2018 election, which presents an opportunity to unseat incumbent Gov. Bill Walker — a lifelong Republican who dropped his party registration and teamed up with a Democrat, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, to beat the incumbent Republican governor, Sean Parnell, in 2014.

Also present at Sunday's event, according to Must Read Alaska, was Dave Rexrode, the political director for the Republican Governors Association. That group made a last-ditch effort to help defeat Walker in 2014, giving $1.3 million to a super PAC called Citizens Against Walker in the second half of October.

An RGA spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Hawkins, who'd previously said he's considering a gubernatorial campaign, said each potential candidate had his own opportunity to speak but didn't get to listen to the others.

"I was pleased with being able to get my message across, and I was pleased with how the group responded," Hawkins said in a brief phone interview Monday.

One other possible Republican candidate missing from the room was Nikiski Rep. Mike Chenault, who last year finished his eighth year as House speaker and has said he's considering a run.

Must Read Alaska reported that Chenault was in Juneau, where state lawmakers are convened in a special session to address Alaska's massive deficit.

Dunleavy didn't immediately return a message asking that he explain why he appeared at a political event before the end of the legislative session.

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