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Candidate Fisher visits Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sheldon Fisher knows he's got a difficult challenge on his hands in trying to unseat long-time Republican Congressman Don Young in his own primary, but he thinks the future of the country is at stake - and worth it.

"I think the growth of the federal deficit will jeopardize every other attribute of American society," he said.

The former ACS executive and Yale Law School graduate was in Juneau for a campaign trip Monday and met with the Empire's editorial board.

Fisher, of Anchorage, said the federal surplus crafted by former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been squandered, and the country is heading toward crippling deficits.

Fisher said it is going to take broad-based spending cuts, though he declined to identify specifics, to rein in the growth of the budget. While he has said publicly he was opposed to new taxes, he hasn't taken an anti-tax pledge.

But one type of spending Fisher said he'd like to see ended is earmarks, specifically mentioning the Coconut Road earmark in Florida which has Young in trouble with investigators.

Earmarks too often go for wasteful projects, or those that are of local but not national interest, Fisher said.

"We (shouldn't) be building things we don't need, even if they provide jobs for a short period of time," he said.

Fisher acknowledged that earmarks were only a small portion of federal spending overall, but said their impact was much more insidious. Powerful members of Congress used their ability to approve earmarks to buy votes on hugely expensive new programs the government can't afford, he said.

Taking on a congressman who has been in office as long as Young is difficult, Fisher admitted.

But Young is not the Congressional power that he once was, he said.

"While he's been in Congress for a long time, he doesn't have the power of that seniority, he's squandered it," Fisher said.

Young has been stripped of his seniority because of ethics allegations, while the political newspaper Roll Call has reported Young may also lose his committee assignments because of his unwillingness to go along with a Republican anti-earmark push, Fisher said.

Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was nearly re-elected after a since-overturned corruption conviction, but Fisher said Young has never been held in the same esteem by Alaskans as was the senator.

Even where they agree on policy, such as supporting the oil industry, Fisher disagrees with Young's tactics.

Both Fisher and Young have expressed doubts about the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, but Fisher said Young's "callous" statements about BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster may hurt Alaska.

At a time when Alaskans need to persuade the nation that it can responsibly drill for oil in ANWR and offshore, Young's statements that the BP spill in the gulf was not a natural disaster may undermine that effort.

"They created the impression that Alaskans are not concerned with protecting the environment," he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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