PALMER - Candidates in the crowded field for lieutenant governor are working to stand out from the pack.
They spoke Wednesday at a candidates forum sponsored by the Palmer Chamber of Commerce.
The real battle is among the five candidates seeking the Republican party nod in the Aug. 27 primary. All other candidates at the forum are running unopposed.
State Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican, told those gathered at the Palmer Moose Lodge that the state needs to open up more land for development.
"My motto has always been that one of these days I want it to be just as easy to get a building permit as it is to get a welfare check in this state," Taylor said.
Former Homer Rep. Gail Phillips, adopted a more low-key approach. She said the four years she spent as House speaker have made her uniquely qualified for the job.
"I'm the only candidate running for lieutenant governor to serve in the top administrative post in the Alaska Legislature," she said.
During her tenure as speaker the Republican majority launched its five-year plan to cut state spending, she said. Further spending cuts and use of money from the earnings reserve of the Alaska Permanent Fund should play a part in solving the state's fiscal woes, she said.
Anchorage Sen. Loren Leman, the Senate's Republican majority leader, focused on the need for the Legislature and the administration of the new governor to work closely together.
Such cooperation has been sorely lacking during the tenure of Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, the lieutenant governor hopeful said.
"I believe that I'm the strongest candidate to step in and constructively work with the administration and the Legislature," Leman told the Palmer crowd.
He also gave an example of how he likes to see the state helping spur development, pointing to the $4 million spent for a road to Donlin Creek mine in Western Alaska.
Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin described herself as a "hard-core fiscal conservative." She touted her role in implementing tax cuts as mayor and said the experience of the growing Matanuska-Susitna Valley should be used as a model for the state.
Palin also set herself apart from the other Republicans at the forum by saying many Alaskans are unhappy with where the state and the Legislature have been moving. She said less divisiveness and "new voices" are needed.
Anchorage resident Paul Wieler also has filed as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor but did not attend the forum.
Democratic candidate Ernie Hall, Green Party candidate Diane Benson, and Alaska Independence Party candidate Daniel DeNardo are running unopposed in their lieutenant governor primaries.