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Dunleavy suspends campaign for Alaska governor as Huggins files to run

Sen. Mike Dunleavy gives a speech opposing the state Senate’s budget proposal at the Capitol in Juneau on April 6. (Nathaniel Herz / Alaska Dispatch News)

Wasilla GOP state Sen. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday that a medical problem with his heart is forcing him to suspend his 2-month-old gubernatorial campaign, while a former Wasilla GOP senator, Charlie Huggins, has filed paperwork signaling his intent to run.

A third high-profile Republican, former House Speaker Mike Chenault of Nikiski, also signaled Tuesday that he could enter the race, filing his own paperwork that allows him to start raising money for a potential gubernatorial campaign.

Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, is already in the race, seeking a second term.

After canceling campaign events in Ketchikan this week, Dunleavy said in a prepared statement Tuesday morning that he recently had a "procedure" to correct a health problem. In a phone interview, he said he'd been suffering from a non-life-threatening heart problem called atrial fibrillation.

"Over the past year the frequency has increased and the medication was proving to be ineffective, so I went for a procedure. The time to recover and the focus on recovery is taking time away from the campaign," he said.

Dunleavy will suspend his campaign for as long as it takes to heal before ultimately making a "final determination if he should continue," his statement said.

Charlie Huggins speaks at a news conference in the Capitol in 2014, when he was Senate president. (Richard Mauer / Alaska Dispatch News)

Meanwhile, Charlie Huggins, a former Senate president, filed paperwork with Alaska campaign finance regulators Tuesday signifying his intent to run for governor — a decision simultaneously announced by his wife, Becky, on talk radio.

Charlie Huggins was on a moose hunting trip, Becky Huggins told radio host Rick Rydell on AM station KENI.

Huggins retired from the Legislature last year.

Chenault has filed his own paperwork to run for statewide office but didn't say which. But he then issued a statement that said he's investigating whether he'd have enough support to mount a gubernatorial campaign.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Chenault, who still serves in the House and would be up for re-election for his House seat in 2018, said he'd make a decision within two weeks after holding events in Anchorage and in his home district on the Kenai Peninsula.

"We're trying to schedule some luncheons and other meetings with folks," Chenault said.

Any GOP candidates will have to first square off in an August primary before facing incumbent Walker in the general election. No Democrat has announced yet, but former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has said he's considering a run.

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