Walker's In, But Who's With Her?

Walker's In, But Who's With Her?

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Though Gov. Olene Walker has finally answered questions about whether she'll seek a full term in office, plenty remain about who'll share the ticket with her.

Walker confirmed through a spokeswoman that she's leaving the decision up to current Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie, and so far he's not saying.

"We're waiting for him to consider his options," said the governor's campaign spokeswoman Tiffany Smith. "The ball is in his court."

McKeachnie has always said he was a short-timer, but is now "seriously" considering sticking around.

However, he's in no hurry to make up his mind, leaving open the possibility for some last-minute shuffling leading up to the May 8 state convention.

"That surprises me," said state Democratic Party Chairman Donald Dunn. "You would think that deal would have already been worked out."

But McKeachnie says personal, not political, circumstances will influence his decision to accept or reject the Republican governor's offer.

Upon accepting appointment to the state's second-in-command post last October, McKeachnie said he planned on returning to his family, Vernal law practice and farm after 14 months.

However, his 14-month term in office may convince the former legislator to stick around for one more term.

"I very much like what I'm doing. Olene is great to work with and I would very much like to help her," he said. "Today I'm really not leaning one way or the other."

There is no official deadline for gubernatorial candidates to announce their sidekicks, but there are tactical reasons to name one sooner rather than later.

State Republican Party Chairman Joe Cannon believes McKeachnie's northern Utah roots would be "a political plus" for Walker in a statewide election.

Walker came to the governor's office by succession in November, taking over after former Gov. Mike Leavitt left to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

None of the other seven Republican gubernatorial hopefuls have announced their lieutenant choices.

"I suspect everyone is kind of waiting until after the caucuses on March 23," Cannon said. "Immediately after there will be a flurry of polling data with candidates surveying new delegates. Once that happens you'll find some shifting around, maybe even by some current candidates."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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