Voters who complain about lack of choice must envy the 773 Juneau residents who belong to the Alaskan Independence Party.
They get to choose among six candidates - some quite outspoken - running for the AIP nomination for governor in the Aug. 27 primary election.
The party, which was formed in the 1970s with the goal of having Alaskans vote on becoming a separate nation, has a platform that includes abolishing property taxes, privatizing government services and protecting the Alaska Permanent Fund.
Candidate John Wayne Glotfelty, 55, is a retired U.S. Army sergeant. He moved to Alaska in the early 1990s, packing his family's belongings in a 45-foot school bus because his children wanted to attend college at the University of Alaska.
A vice chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, Glotfelty believes government waste is rampant.
He said he was inspired to run for governor one evening as he calmed a fussy granddaughter by playing the state song, "Alaska's Flag."
"I said, 'What chance does this baby have if I don't get off the couch?' "
Nels Anderson, 63, of Dillingham quit the Democratic Party after nearly 30 years, including terms as a Democrat in the state House and Senate, because he believes it has moved from its traditions as the party of the working people.
He shares the Alaskan Independence Party's support of an "all-Alaska" gas pipeline, meaning a pipeline route from the North Slope to tidewater at Valdez or perhaps Cook Inlet. The major oil companies operating in Alaska have said such a project is not feasible, but Anderson said the government should not accept that answer.
"The oil and gas industry shouldn't be calling the shots about when we un-strand that gas from the North Slope," Anderson said. "We don't need them."
Casey Cockerham, 39, was born in Fairbanks and has worked as a truck driver, warehouseman, firefighter and real estate investor.
The son of an Athabascan mother and an African-American father, Cockerham said he sees himself as a "Moses" who would stand up for the poor. He complains of interagency squabbles and foul-ups in state government and of police arresting people on false charges.
Don Wright, 72, of Fairbanks is making his eighth run for governor. He said he's previously run, unsuccessfully, as a Democrat, Republican, AIP and independent candidate.
Wright said he was a negotiator for the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and was one of the founders of the Alaskan Independence Party.
However, he realized after filing as an AIP candidate this year, he does not agree with the party's lack of support for a rural preference for subsistence uses of fish and game and for Native sovereignty.
The AIP does not support Wright, either. Party Chairman Mark Chryson said that unlike the other five candidates, Wright refused to sign the party's platform or meet with party officials. Chryson said the party will "disavow" him if he wins.
Two other AIP candidates for governor, Samuel Acevedo Fevos Sr. of Salcha and Harold A. "Sandy" Haldane of Fairbanks, did not answer telephone or e-mail messages from the Empire.
"Good luck," Chryson said, when asked how to reach them. "They're not serious candidates."
Chryson sees Glotfelty and Anderson as the most viable candidates.
Each of the AIP candidates interviewed suggested a different way to deal with an expected state budget gap in coming years of about $1 billion. The state has been filling the gap by tapping the Constitutional Budget Reserve, but that fund is expected to be depleted in 2004.
Anderson would put new oil revenues and all the state's savings accounts, including the permanent fund, into an endowment, and fund government from the interest.
It would take 14 years for the plan to produce a balanced budget, he said. In the meantime, he would tax undeveloped natural gas on the North Slope, raise taxes on alcohol, and cut "corporate welfare."
Wright would take care of the fiscal gap by socking it to big business.
"I would nail it all on the oil companies and the timber people and the tourism people and the (big) business people," Wright said.
Glotfelty would cut $500 million in "raw, naked waste" from the budget. For instance, he said he would replace vehicles less frequently and cut "nonessential" personnel.
He would not cut union workers, though, and would protect programs such as Denali KidCare, which provides health insurance to children in low- and moderate-income families.
Cockerham's solution is to tap more than $50 billion he claims is hidden in dozens of off-budget accounts and trusts.
When asked for more detail on the hidden money, he referred to a Web page linking to the state's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Kim Garnero, director of the state Division of Finance, which produces the report, said Alaska does have multiple funds outside of the general fund, but that does not mean an extra $50 billion is available to run state government.
Those funds include various politically or legally untouchable accounts, including those of the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., state employee and teacher pension funds, and the permanent fund.
The candidates are split on whether the state constitution should be amended to allow a rural preference for subsistence uses of fish and game.
Anderson supports a constitutional amendment. So does Wright, as long as it's "not mincy-worded and done by crooked lawyers."
Glotfelty opposes a constitutional amendment, and Cockerham proposes satisfying subsistence needs by reducing commercial fishing.
Cockerham, Glotfelty and Wright all favor moving legislative sessions from Juneau, although Glotfelty said he would change his position if Juneau built a road to Haines. Anderson opposes moving legislative sessions.
Party chairman Chryson said the AIP passed resolutions at its last two conventions supporting moving the Legislature.
The candidates are all running low-budget - or no-budget - campaigns.
Anderson and Glotfelty said they've raised about $8,600 each. Cockerham is spending even less, but he's trying to campaign by speaking in churches and driving to some communities on the road system to hand out flyers.
"I have a little Mercedes Benz, and I painted it all up and I have a couple of flags on it," Cockerham said.
Wright doesn't plan to spend a dime.
Cathy Brown is a Juneau free-lance writer who has worked for the Juneau Empire and The Associated Press.
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