Wayne Anthony Ross is a supporter of Frank Murkowski - for Senate.
But Ross, the other Republican in the governor's race, insists that Alaska's junior U.S. senator should stay in Washington, D.C., this year.
Meanwhile, Ross hopes to take over the third floor of the Capitol in Juneau.
Murkowski, a 21-year Senate veteran, is the overwhelming favorite in the Republican primary election for governor in August, as well as the consensus front-runner for the general election in November.
By contrast, Ross, an Anchorage attorney who will be 59 in a week, never has held public office. In 1998, he finished third in the Republican gubernatorial primary with 17,445 votes, a little more than 200 votes behind second-place finisher Robin Taylor, a longtime legislator from Wrangell.
Ross, noting he was vastly outspent by Taylor and ill-fated Republican nominee John Lindauer, said his inexperience could serve the state well.
"We keep electing retreads from one job to another job to another job," he said during an
interview at the Capitol last week. He prefers the concept of a citizen briefly leaving the private sector to perform government service without long-term aspirations.
A former Republican national committeeman and an avid member of the National Rifle Association, Ross is running somewhat to Murkowski's right, calling for the repeal of the rural subsistence priority in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and ruling out any tax increases whatsoever to balance the state budget.
Ross brings up the so-called urban-rural divide, with its undercurrents of whites against Natives, as an example of a disturbing trend over the past decade and a half.
"I want to restore the pride we had to be Alaskans," he says. "I want to get Alaskans united again."
Yet, his proposed solution of repealing the rural priority through a court challenge would seem to be the most explosive route a new governor could travel in addressing geographical and racial tensions. Board members of the Alaska Federation of Natives made clear to outgoing Gov. Tony Knowles last week that they would resist vigorously anything that might encourage tampering with ANILCA, which has superseded the state constitutional guarantee of equal access to resources.
"We can't have one group thinking that they've got a leg up because they've got the federal law," Ross said. "We've got to get control of our destiny as Alaskans."
He said he'd hire some "junkyard dog attorneys" in the Department of Law to get the federal law struck down on the basis that it conflicts with the earlier statehood act.
As for the certain resistance from AFN, "You've got to explain to them, and they've got to be willing to listen," Ross said. But some Native leaders "think of it as a power thing," and there's no reasoning with them, he said, declining to name names.
Ross is also adamant on the state budget, which he describes as "a shell game" in which legislators serve special interests in a clandestine way.
"The Republicans haven't had a leader in a long time," he said.
Long-term, Ross wants a biennial budget to soften the fluctuations of oil prices and production, and a new endowment fund from revenues generated by the sale of state assets.
To avert a projected $1 billion budget deficit by 2004, he would focus exclusively on the expenditure side of the ledger.
"I want to have a budget that we don't spend any more than we take in, period," he said. "You cut expenditures to such an extent that you can get it down to such a position that reasonably the state can't cut any more."
Ross refused to be specific about the spending he would want cut. "I have not studied the budget yet. ... I will say I'm not going to cut the troopers. I'm not going to cut the university."
If new revenue is needed, it can come from permanent fund earnings, Ross said.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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