If she wins the Republican primary in Alaska Tuesday -- and she is heavily favored -- state Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski will become the eighth woman to gain a major party nomination for governor this year. It is by far the nation's largest crop of female gubernatorial candidates.

"It's exciting," said Michele Davis, director of the Republican Governors Association. "These are women who didn't just burst onto the scene. They took a page from the boys. They came through the system -- many as state legislators -- and now they are a part of the system."

Democratic women nominated for governor include former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein in California, state Treasurer Ann Richards in Texas, Secretary of State Barbara Roberts in Oregon and state Treasurer Joan Finney in Kansas.

Republicans include Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr, Pennsylvania state Auditor Barbara Hafer and Wyoming rancher Mary Meade, daughter of a former governor.

In Alaska's unusual primary, Democrats and Republicans run on the same ballot, with the top vote-getters from each party facing each other in November.

While Sturgulewski, who was her party's nominee in 1986, is the odds-on favorite for one spot on the November ballot, there's a tight Democratic race between former Anchorage mayor Tony Knowles and Lt. Gov. Stephen McAlpine for the other.

The noisiest issue has been a casino gambling initiative. Sturgulewski and Knowles both oppose it, while McAlpine says he opposes gambling but supports the initiative because he says it simply would allow local communities to vote whether they want casinos.

McAlpine and Knowles also differ over an initiative to recriminalize private possession of less than four ounces of marijuana. McAlpine opposes it; Knowles favors it.

They are competing for the seat being vacated by Gov. Steve Cowper (D), who chose not to seek reelection.