Republicans are outraged that former Alaska governor Walter J. Hickel (R) wants his old job back. Minutes before Wednesday's deadline, Hickel, 71, filed as the nominee of the Alaskan Independence Party after its candidate, John Lindauer, withdrew to let Hickel in.

"The spirit of Alaska has been lost in recent years," Hickel said at a news conference in announcing his comeback bid. He said he offers a can-do attitude he found lacking in other candidates. "I'm not one to study things to death," he said. "I get things done."

Hickel's entry could torpedo the chances of Republican nominee Arliss Sturgulewski. Hickel did the same in 1986 when he ran as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to Sturgulewski.

Democrat Steve Cowper edged out Sturgulewski in the general election.

"Arliss has been working for four years," an angry Michele Davis, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, said yesterday. "For someone like Wally Hickel to do what he did in 1986 and act as a spoiler -- that's an act of a man with a large ego who can't stand that there are no microphones in front of him."

Cowper, who is not seeking a second term, said the development will help Democratic nominee Tony Knowles, former mayor of Anchorage. "Alaska politics has always been a Wild West show, and it looks like this is the shootout at the GOP corral," he said. Lynn Cutler, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, went so far yesterday as to say: "Tony Knowles is governor."

State Sen. Jack Coghill, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, switched to Hickel's conservative ticket. Sturgulewski quickly chose as her running mate Anchorage businessman Jim Campbell, who came in a strong second to her in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

Hickel, who is a developer, was governor from 1966 to 1969, when he was appointed Interior secretary by President Richard M. Nixon.