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Former Florida deputy comptroller runs for the U.S. Senate — in Alaska

In television ads running frequently in Alaska, a bearded man stands in front of a house owned by recently indicted Sen. Ted Stevens.

"I'm Vic Vickers," the man booms, "and I'm running against Ted Stevens to stop corruption."

You'll forgive Alaskans if the name doesn't ring a bell. Vickers moved to Alaska full-time only in January. From Florida.

On Thursday, the Anchorage Daily News ran a profile of him under the headline, "Who is the mysterious Vic Vickers?"

Old-time Florida political junkies may remember Raymond "Vic" Vickers. Back in the early 1980s, Vickers carried the whiff of political controversy himself.

Back then, Vickers served as then Florida Comptroller Gerald A. Lewis' deputy. Yellowed newspaper clips note that Vickers was once accused of strong-arming campaign contributions for Lewis from people with business before the comptroller's office. Vickers and Lewis vehemently denied the allegations, and no charges were ever filed.

The allegations were false, Vickers said this week from his home in Alaska, trumped up by a political opponent during a Lewis re-election campaign.

Later, Vickers went into private law practice, representing applicants for state bank charters. A grand jury later looked into complaints that Vickers used influence with the Comptroller's Office to rack up hefty fees from bank clients. The charges were fueled in part by Lewis, with whom Vickers had a bitter falling-out. Nothing ever came of that investigation either.

The allegations were absurd, Vickers said. "Any allegations against me back then were bogus, and time has proven that."

Vickers blames Lewis for trying to deflect attention from an investigation of himself, which also ended without any charges.

Jim Minter, who ran Cabinet affairs for Lewis for a year, laughed when he heard of Vickers' current run at the Senate. Minter remembers Vickers was "kind of a cowboy," a bulldozer who would "flat run over people."

"He doesn't seem to have lost any of his brash approach to life," Minter said.

Former state legislator Curt Kiser, who has known Vickers for more than three decades, said while there was certainly a cloud over Lewis' entire office, he believes the accusations against Vickers were politically motivated and untrue.

Kiser described Vickers as a forceful political figure "who may not always be right; but he's never in doubt."

Vickers said he began unwinding his law practice — which once included more than 100 banks and financial institutions as clients — in the late 1980s. He owns a maritime company in South Florida. He got a doctorate in economic history at Florida State University and wrote two books about banking scandals in Florida and Chicago. And he has occasionally thrown small amounts of money at candidates on both sides of the aisle.

But after tangling with Lewis, and supporting an opponent who would eventually unseat Lewis, Vickers largely dropped off the political radar.

Until now.

Vickers' history in Alaska actually dates back 38 years when the recent college graduate hitchhiked to Alaska and fell into a job as an aide to George F. Boney, then chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court (Boney was the brother of Vickers' high school football coach). Vickers said Boney became a mentor to him and encouraged him to go to law school.

Vickers said he has made yearly trips to Alaska ever since but moved the family there full-time in January while researching a book on the history of the gas and oil industry.

Vickers said his outrage over oil company exploitation of Alaska and Stevens' indictment persuaded him to jump into the race. Stevens was indicted last week on corruption charges after investigators say he failed to report more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil company, including labor and construction materials for a home.

Vickers changed his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican when he moved to Alaska but truth be told, he said, he's disgusted with both parties.

The primary is on Aug. 26. It's hard to tell whether Vickers is a novelty candidate or a serious contender, but he is sinking $750,000 of his own money into his campaign. And it never hurts when your opponent is under federal indictment.

Former Florida deputy comptroller runs for the U.S. Senate — in Alaska 08/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 3:19pm]
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