Alaska editorial: Murkowski chose new Cabinet members well

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

The following editorial is from Saturday's Anchorage Daily News:

Gov. Frank Murkowski stabilized the ship of state by appointing three widely accepted moderates to his Cabinet. It was a good day for him.

New Attorney General Dave Marquez won plaudits from both sides of the aisle in the Capitol for his legal abilities and personal credibility. He had survived a conflicts-of-interest review by a well-regarded assistant attorney general, Barbara Ritchie, before the governor made his appointment.

Job One for the new AG is to establish his leadership and sound ethical standards at the Department of Law. Bipartisan support, assuming he survives confirmation by the Legislature, should make that job easier. Alaska's Department of Law generally has established a reputation for professionalism and competence - a fact that made former Attorney General Gregg Renkes' conflict-of-interest problems more than normally painful - and Mr. Marquez likely will enjoy considerable support in striving to restore that luster.

The larger challenge is to take over the lead on negotiations and review of the various natural gas pipeline projects in the wind. Mr. Marquez should be well-prepared for that effort. He spent some 20 years with Arco Alaska Inc., winding up as vice president and chief counsel before Phillips Alaska Inc. took over the firm. That's good background, and Mr. Marquez took pains to reassure any skeptics about his priorities: "I will pledge myself to fully representing the state of Alaska."

McKie Campbell and Kurt Fredriksson will occupy two other hot seats in state government. The Department of Fish and Game is always contentious, but Mr. Campbell comes with considerable public experience and a calming manner; both should serve him well. He's been an elected official, a gubernatorial campaign manager, a deputy chief of staff and a deputy commissioner, so he knows his way around politics and policy. Mr. Fredriksson has served as acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation since the departure of Ernesta Ballard last fall after he served a long apprenticeship in government posts. He is seen as a bureaucratic survivor who manages high marks from all sides.

With high-stakes gas pipeline issues front and center, plus a 2006 election campaign starting to loom in the distance, this is no time for the governor to make strident, polarizing or controversial appointments. On those grounds, at least, it appears the governor has chosen well.

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