ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The governor’s race is heating up this week. On Wednesday, the campaigns of Gov. Sean Parnell and Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz traded jabs, each side saying the other is distorting facts.
Over the past few days, both candidates have been waging a war in press releases. But at a forum held Monday during the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon, a propane tank made the debate even more volatile.
“This is the only gas that's been shipped from the North Slope to Southcentral,” Berkowitz said, setting the tank on the table between him and Parnell. “I and (lieutenant-governor running mate) Diane Benson brought this gas here today.”
“I think we need more than a propane tank -- we need a pipeline,” Parnell said, setting the tank on the floor as he answered a question from the floor.
That was only the start of the jabs traded this week between Berkowitz and Parnell.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Parnell claims Berkowitz’s plan to let individuals buy shares of a natural gas pipeline would cost the state nearly 2,000 jobs. Parnell said Alaskans wouldn't want to put their own Permanent Fund Dividend money toward a pipeline without a buyer, seller, shipper or concrete plan.
On Wednesday, Berkowitz sent out a statement saying Parnell has effectively admitted that the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act’s pipeline plan, championed by former Gov. Sarah Palin and continued by Parnell, is now officially a failure.
“Sean Parnell's acknowledging that the AGIA process hasn't yielded any concrete buyers or sellers or any real plan,” Berkowitz said.
The Parnell campaign responded in a statement Wednesday.
“Ethan can attack all he wants, but Governor Parnell is going to stay focused on creating jobs for Alaska’s families and providing the leadership with experience, values and vision Alaska needs now,” Parnell campaign manager Michelle Toohey said in the statement.
Both candidates also reacted to a new Rasmussen Reports poll showing Parnell with a 20-point lead over Berkowitz, with 7 percent undecided.
“It's not poll numbers that matter, it's ideas -- and we've been running a campaign based on ideas and a vision where the state needs to go, we’ve got six weeks until the election, we're comfortable with the progress,” Berkowitz said.
As the November general election approaches, the campaigning continues.
Bill Walker, who was defeated by Parnell in the Republican primary, was not included in the Rasmussen poll’s results. He now says he'll be making a decision on Monday on whether to run as a write-in candidate in the general election.
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