Alaska Governor: Good News for Democrats

June 6, 2006 · 12:02 AM EDT

Two major announcements out of Alaska regarding the gubernatorial race, and both of them help the Democrats’ prospects in November. First, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) announced he would seek reelection to a second term. And second, former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) announced he would seek his third term.

Murkowski is one of the most unpopular governors in the country and Republicans probably would have been better off if he hadn’t sought another term. Since the governor is politically weak and put off his decision for months, other potential GOP candidates started exploring bids of their own. Now, Lt. Gov. Loren Leman (R) is retiring from politics altogether, but former state senator/businessman John Binkley (R) and former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin will challenge the governor in the August 22 primary. It is unclear how deep Murkowski’s woes have spread into his Republican base.

On the other side, Knowles’ candidacy completes the Democrats’ best-case scenario. Knowles served two terms as governor, was prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term, and ran for the U.S. Senate. He lost that 2004 race to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who was appointed by her father through an unnecessarily messy and controversial process.

State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) dropped his gubernatorial bid and will run for lieutenant governor under Knowles instead. State Rep. Eric Croft (D) is still in the race, but Knowles will be the nominee.

Knowles never won his gubernatorial races convincingly and he lost his only statewide head-to-head match-up without a major third party candidate. But Gov. Murkowski is simply ripe for the picking. Move the race from Toss-Up to Lean Takeover.

This item first appeared on Political Wire on June 2, 2006.