My Turn: Governing is more than conservative slogans

Posted: Monday, January 06, 2003

I love to hear former Gov. Walter Hickel tell why he made the controversial appointment of Ted Stevens to the U.S. Senate 34 years ago. "A fighter, a survivor" is how he describes one of the most important decisions ever made by a governor in Alaska's brief history.

Looking back at his wise choice, it seems the only people who might criticize it are the same folks who are criticizing our newest U.S. senator. The complaints I'm hearing emanate from a place where Alaskans who prefer fairness and solutions rarely visit.

Welcome to the right wing, it's their way or no way. The folks in these parts have a standard operating procedure when young Republicans step out onto the porch in search of new solutions to old problems; they shut the door and label them liberals.

Ironically, these are the same people who shut the door on the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1994 only to spend the next eight years criticizing a Democrat that they helped elect. These folks can't seem to manage themselves let alone government. They like to use advocacy groups to attack candidates that refuse to blindly follow their agenda.

Their preferred campaign tools include last minute attacks like the letter Republican Rep. Fred Dyson sent out to voters before the August primary accusing Lisa Murkowski of supporting policies that "slaughter innocent children." Imagine a mother of two, former PTA president, board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs and dedicated public official portrayed in those words to her friends and neighbors.

The most frustrating thing is that their long history of using bumper sticker slogans to address complex problems has failed this state for years. And if that wasn't bad enough, these folks fail to truthfully disclose the facts behind the recent abortion-funding bill that then Rep. Murkowski and others opposed.

Not only had the courts already ruled that an earlier attempt by the Legislature represented discrimination, therefore unconstitutional. But after striking down the policy, the courts promptly handed the Legislature a bill for $250,000 in court costs. So while blatantly ignoring the court's previous ruling, the Legislature passed its most recent attempt last session through four committees and both branches of the Legislature without one piece of evidence that proved the policy was necessary.

Let me repeat that for all Alaskans who value constitutional rights. The 22nd Alaska State Legislature passed Senate Bill 364 even though it was knowingly unconstitutional and without any proof other than ideology. Like I said, it's their way or no way.

For politicians who label themselves conservatives, the practice of continuing to pass unconstitutional and unwarranted legislation at $250,000 a shot doesn't seem very conservative to me. But then again, the definition of conservative that you'll find in the dictionary has always been difficult to reconcile with their legislative actions.

So how about solving the problem, saving money and respecting the constitution? Studies have consistently shown that decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies would have a tremendous positive impact. However, solutions like prevention, education and prescription equity for women that have worked in other states have been ignored in Alaska because legislators like Rep. Dyson refuse to support any ideas that would prove their positions have been needlessly based on peddling character assassinations to voters.

Once again, solutions to complex public policy problems don't fit on a bumper sticker. So take a misrepresented issue like abortion funding, throw in attempts to solve the biggest economic challenge this state will ever face and an opponent whose campaign was based on nothing but personal attacks, and you have the perfect recipe for a slim 57-vote victory in a closed Republican primary. That's why they prefer closed primaries.

But these folks have always underestimated the ability of Lisa Murkowski. She is a fighter, a survivor and one public servant who refuse to bow to a vocal minority that has a long storied history of disregarding everything from fiscal responsibility and the constitution to plain old fashion common sense.

That's good for Alaska and good luck to our newest U.S. senator.

Halcro is a Republican who represents Anchorage in the Alaska Legislature.

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