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French makes local campaign stop

Dem promises to support Juneau as capital, live in Governor's Mansion

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2009

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Hollis French of Anchorage said he'll be living in Juneau and supporting Juneau if he's elected the state's next governor.

Photo By Klas Stolpe
Photo By Klas Stolpe

The support for the capital drew cheers from about 45 people Thursday as French stood on the steps of the Capitol after announcing his run for governor Wednesday.

French didn't mention by name current Gov. Sarah Palin, with whom he has had a sometimes friendly and sometimes antagonistic relationship during the past two and a half years. He did say he'd be doing some things differently as governor, including revitalizing the Governor's Mansion and opening it to Alaskans.

"If you elect me as your governor, I'm gong to live there," French said.

Until Palin was elected governor in 2006, every governor in the state's history lived in the historic mansion. Palin, however, only lived there while the Legislature was in session and mostly resided in her Wasilla home.

French, who must win the Democratic primary Aug. 24, 2010, to have a chance to become governor, brought his campaign to one of the state's biggest concentrations of Democrats when he visited Juneau.

French's support of Juneau as the capital got the biggest cheers from people who dodged raindrops to hear him speak. Later, he was scheduled to appear at a campaign fundraiser.

French said he'd support Juneau and Southeast as governor, and took a jab at both Palin and former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

"This part of the state has been neglected for too long," he said. "Not only by this governor but by the one before that."

Later, however, he was unable to give an opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency's recent request for further study of Coeur Alaska's Kensington mine proposal, saying he had not yet studied the agency's request.

French joins another Democrat, former Department of Administration Commissioner Bob Poe, in filing to run for the Democratic nomination. Former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, had said he plans to run as well.

Republican Sean Parnell said he plans to run for re-election after taking over as governor when Palin steps down Sunday. Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, said he expects to run as well.

French highlighted his own personal story for the Juneau crowd, working for ARCO on the North Slope while studying for law school. Later, he became a state prosecutor in the Anchorage District Attorney's Office.

In the Legislature, French backed Palin's push for a natural gas pipeline for Alaska and reforming a corruption-tainted oil tax system.

He said as governor, he'd keep working on those issues, and make sure Alaska got the best deal possible for its resources.

French said he expects the companies that hold natural gas leases in Alaska to seek tax breaks from the Legislature, and promised to be as tough an advocate for Alaska as they are for their interests.

The Alaska oil pipeline provided 27 months of construction jobs and three decades of funding to state government and the Permanent Fund. The state cannot give away 50 years of revenue that could provide education for Alaska children, he said, in exchange for two years' worth of jobs.

At current natural gas prices, the new pipeline will be profitable, French said, and the companies will have to make a persuasive case about why they need lower taxes.

"I think we are going to have to see their cards first," French said.

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



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