JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell on Friday announced plans to seek re-election next year, saying he believes he can be more effective in that role than in pursuing a U.S. Senate bid.
Parnell told The Associated Press his administration has helped to build a "solid foundation" of opportunity for the state, "and it's now time to frame in that opportunity and make it more lasting for Alaskans."
Parnell will seek to hold on to the office he's held since July 2009. He's coming off a legislative session in which he scored some major political wins, including passage of a controversial oil tax cut aimed at spurring North Slope investment and production.
The announcement comes with the 2014 primaries more than a year away. Attorney Bill Walker has already announced plans to seek the GOP nomination for governor. He came in second to Parnell in the 2010 gubernatorial primary.
Parnell announced his decision at a Republican women's event in Fairbanks, putting to rest speculation that he would seek to challenge first-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Fellow Republicans Joe Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell have already said they are considering a run against Begich.
Parnell said he considered the race seriously, adding his belief that the federal government "is in deep need of a different direction."
"But I felt I could be more effective for Alaskans as their governor at this point in time and in the years ahead, rather than pursuing that," he said.
During the last legislative session — "the most productive in decades," Parnell said — lawmakers passed a number of bills deemed priorities by the administration, including the oil tax cut and a plan aimed at bringing natural gas to parts of Interior Alaska suffering from high energy costs.
Parnell points, too, to continued efforts to make progress on a major natural gas pipeline project. Parnell has set a series of benchmarks for progress on the long-hoped-for line, all of which have been met so far. He has called for the next benchmark to be met sometime this spring.
"We've got a large-diameter gas line to build. We've got a liquefaction plant and natural gas distribution system to get built in the Interior. We've got a Susitna-Watana project to get firmly launched," he said in an interview. "We've improved high school graduation rates, but we've got plenty of work there to get to our 90 percent graduation rate goal. We've got a five-year plan of fiscal restraint to follow through on, and yes, we've got still a lot of children who need leadership in this state to keep them safe in their homes.