FAIRBANKS — Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced Friday evening in Fairbanks that he will run for re-election in 2014.
Parnell, a Republican, stated his plans at a reception during the convention of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.
“We have a great working team with us here in Juneau. We intend to build on that in Juneau. We intend to frame-in this opportunity for Alaskans by seeking re-election in 2014,” he said to loud applause.
“I’m not ready to take the distraction of another race right now,” he said in an obvious reference to the U.S. Senate, which also will be on the 2014 ballot. “My focus is on Alaskans and doing this job well.”
The lead up to Parnell’s announcement included plenty of speculation about the possibility that Parnell could enter the race for U.S. Senate to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.
Parnell, 50, became governor when Sarah Palin resigned in 2009. He then won a full four-year term in 2010 and is eligible to run for a second full term in 2014.
Parnell struggled to gain traction for his priorities against a bipartisan-controlled Senate in recent years but found more success during the most recent session when redistricting delivered a friendly Republican-led Senate.
“What a difference an election makes,” he said in the lead up to the announcement.
Parnell and the Republican-dominated chambers of the Legislature passed many big pieces of legislation, including an oil tax cut and continuation of work on a small-diameter natural gas pipeline.
Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, praised Parnell’s leadership and said the working relationship between Parnell and the Republican-led Legislature is good.
“Both philosophically and business-wise, I liked working with Sean Parnell,” he said. “If he says something, you can take it to the bank.”
It’s unclear how oil taxes could play into the 2014 races. A citizen-led effort to repeal the tax by referendum is already underway.
Parnell said he believes his oil tax bill will play well with the public.
“I think that oil tax reform will create billions of dollars of opportunity for Alaskans,” he said. “The changes will come in three to five years, but the ramp-up begins now.”
Possible Democratic challengers to Parnell for governor have yet to be announced, but Parnell will face at least one opponent in the GOP primary in August 2014. Republican Bill Walker, an oil and gas attorney and former Valdez mayor who was critical of Parnell’s handling of natural gas and oil taxes, previously announced his intent to run for governor.
On speculation that he would have joined the race for the Senate, Parnell said he felt the current Legislative makeup is effective and felt like he wanted to continue working in that realm before making a change.
“I can be most effective at the state level,” he said.
The Republican race for the U.S. Senate seat also is quickly becoming crowded, with former Senate candidate Joe Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell considering bids. Miller won the August 2010 primary against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski but lost when she prevailed with a write-in campaign in the November general election.
Parnell is an attorney and former state House and Senate member who also, while not in the Legislature, worked for ConocoPhillips.
Fundraising for Parnell can’t start immediately, but he took part in fundraising for the Alaska Federation of Republican Women.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.