Coming home from the bash

Alaska delegates say Republican ticket will help state's timber, fishing, oil industries

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

PHILADELPHIA -- Alaska delegates to the Republican National Convention have headed home to campaign for a nominee who, if elected, will be the only president to have lived in the state.

Jerry Prevo, chairman of the delegation, said George W. Bush's familiarity with Alaska began with the summer Bush spent in Fairbanks in the early 1970s while working for a pipeline service company.

Others delegates said Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, know Alaska and its congressional delegation very well.

``We would not have a steep learning curve'' if Bush and Cheney are elected, said Chip Wagoner, a delegate from Juneau.

The delegates' week in Philadelphia was characterized by little controversy, either within the group or on the convention floor.

``There is less dissension this time,'' Wagoner said. ``The Republicans want to win after eight years of Clinton. A common foe brings people together.''

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski said he plans to stress energy issues during campaign appearances for Bush.

``I want to make sure in this campaign that the lack of an energy policy is an issue. I am willing to spend the time and effort,'' Murkowski said.

In a quiet but colorful way, the Alaska convention delegates lobbied for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many wore bright red vests bearing the slogan ``Open ANWR-Jobs and Energy for America.''

Delegates said a Bush-Cheney administration would make wholesale changes in policies affecting Alaska.

``On timber, we will never resurrect the industry to the point it was before, but we can get a steady timber management process,'' U.S. Rep. Don Young said.

Young predicted Bush would be more aggressive in enforcing restrictions on high seas fishing and would support the project to develop North Slope gas.

Several delegates urged Republican leaders to send Cheney to Alaska for a day of campaigning and fund-raising. But Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the state Republican Party, said a visit is not likely since Alaska's electoral votes are solidly in the Bush column.

``Really from an electoral standpoint, the use of the two men's time is best spent in the bigger states, although it would be a wonderful treat,'' he said.

Ruedrich, who was participating in his first national convention, said it was a success.

``Everybody was on the same page. We focused on real goals. It has been very positive,'' he said.

After two years of work, Wagoner succeeded in pushing through a rules change that guarantees Alaska and other states more delegates at future Republican conventions.

The Alaska delegation to the 2004 convention will be 28 or 29, depending on the party of the new governor. There were 23 Alaska delegates at this convention.

``The more people who get to participate, the better,'' Wagoner said. ``We need more people involved in the political process, not less.''

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