Samuels campaigns in Juneau

Ex-legislative leader who battled Palin on oil now wants to be governor

Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ralph Samuels wants to be governor to boost the state's economy, including the oil and gas industries he championed in four terms in the Alaska Legislature, the cruise ship industry for which he now works, as well as the locally important mining and fishing industries.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"There's not a sense of urgency, and that's what I want to bring to the governor's office," Samuels said Monday in an interview with the Empire editorial board.

Samuels is the best known of several candidates hoping to challenge Gov. Sean Parnell in the August Republican primary. Samuels served three terms as a state representative from Anchorage, where he was selected by his Republican party colleagues as House Majority leader.

He did not run for re-election, and took at job as a vice-president with Holland-America Line cruise ship company.

Now he's challenging Parnell, who became governor last July after former Gov. Sarah Palin stepped down.

Samuels said he's in broad agreement with Parnell on many of the issues, including having conservative stances on social issues and supporting the Juneau Road and mining.

Parnell said that he didn't know how the controversial Juneau access road would be paid for, but said he'd support seeking federal government money to build it.

"Philosophically, I don't have a problem with building a road out of Juneau," Samuels said.

Samuels also said that as governor he'd live in Juneau, but would not commit to requiring members of his cabinet to live in the capital. He did say cabinet meetings would be held in Juneau and that top state officials would all spend a great deal of time here.

"I certainly won't go out of my way to move jobs out of Juneau," he said.

Samuels avoided criticizing Palin, despite being one of many legislators who did not get along with her. Palin herself had an increasingly poor relationship with the capital city as her tenure as governor went on.

Samuels fought Palin on several oil and gas issues, and is perhaps best known for being the only legislator to vote against the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act she and Parnell supported.

Despite a soon-to-be held "open season," in which AGIA licensee TransCanada Corp. will solicit gas shipment bids, Samuels said he remains skeptical of its success.

The Palin-Parnell AGIA proposal is unlikely to succeed in getting the state a gasline, he said, because it set up a process that doesn't rely on business decisions to get a gasline.

"The government is in charge of driving this process now," Samuels said.

Samuels said he also fears that the development of shale gas may will make it more difficult to build a gasline.

He's also concerned that the state has increased oil taxes to much, and as a result is driving away exploration and development while at the same time the volume flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline is declining.

Alaska, and his rival Parnell, need to do more to boost oil production, Samuels said.

"It's the only thing that pays the bills," he said.

And more needs to be done to provide jobs in a wide variety of industries, with the state making sure things it can control like taxes and environmental regulations don't stand in the way.

"Nobody wants to do something that's not right for the environment, but you can't keep throwing sticks in the spokes of every project that comes along," he said.

Samuels said the reception in Juneau to his candidacy has been positive.

"I've got a lot of support," he said.

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