Green standard-bearers battle it out

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Green Party members have no party candidates to vote for in most races, but in the battle for U.S. Senate, they have two choices.

Green candidates Thomas Higgins and Jim Sykes face off in the primary Aug. 27 for the chance to go up against the popular incumbent, Republican Ted Stevens, in November.

Higgins and Sykes are friendly opponents. They said they drove together to a Kenai Peninsula candidates' forum to save resources, and both are more eager to talk about Ted Stevens' shortcomings than about their own primary battle.

"One of the reasons I'm running is almost everything Ted Stevens is for, I'm against," Sykes said.

Sykes, 52, lives outside Palmer in a straw-bale house he and his wife built. A former public radio reporter, he helped found the Green Party in Alaska, ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Green candidate twice and is former executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group.

Sykes likes to point out differences between him and Stevens. For instance, he said, he favors conservation and development of alternative fuels, while Stevens supports opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Also, Sykes said, he fought the 1999 merger of two of Alaska's major players in the oil industry, BP and Arco, while Stevens supported it.

Higgins, 37, is distribution manager and assistant to the publisher for Anchorage Publishing, which publishes The Anchorage Press.

He grew up in South Dakota and was living in Minnesota when he came to Alaska for the summer in 1992. He moved here permanently in 1994 and ran unsuccessfully for the Anchorage Assembly in 2001.

Higgins said he's disappointed Stevens did not stand up on the Senate floor to protest the U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively decided the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush.

"I'm greatly disappointed in the lack of leadership by Ted Stevens," Higgins said.

If he were senator, Higgins said, instead of putting "pork barrel" money into oil development, he would build a better education system and diversify the economy. He'd try to abolish laws that prohibit production of industrial hemp, which he said could lead to a new industry in Alaska.

He favors developing alternative energy and wants more support for mass transit.

Both Sykes and Higgins support a universal health care system.

When Higgins is pressed to explain why he would be a better candidate than Sykes, he said his communication style is more frank, while Sykes tries to be more diplomatic.

"He is definitely more politically oriented than I. He will take a little more time to not offend somebody than I," Higgins said.

Also, Higgins said, the fact that he is newer to the state gives him a fresh perspective.

Sykes points to his experience as a plus.

"For the past 20 years I've been fighting for Alaskans' rights, consumers' rights," Sykes said. "I've got a lot of experience that I think needs to be reflected in Washington, D.C."

Two other minor parties are running candidates against Stevens. Len Karpinski is running on the Libertarian ticket, and Jim Dore is running as an Alaskan Independence Party candidate. Dore and Karpinski face no opposition from within their parties.

Dore, a 51-year-old house framer from Anchorage, said he's running because of Stevens' "immoral and unconstitutional" voting record.

He criticizes Stevens' support for abortion rights, and said Stevens' vote for campaign finance reform legislation violates constitutional free-speech provisions. Dore also believes much of the federal spending Stevens supports is unconstitutional and socialistic.

Dore previously has run unsuccessful campaigns against Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young.

Libertarian Karpinski, 45, is a designer for an Anchorage engineering company.

Karpinski shares Dore's belief that most federal spending goes beyond what is authorized by the Constitution.

"We want to cut government down to its bare essentials," Karpinski said.

For Karpinski that would mean getting the federal government out of social issues, such as abortion and drugs. Karpinski favors legalizing all drug use by adults.

Karpinski also has run unsuccessfully against Don Young in the past.

In the early 1990s, Karpinski sponsored an unsuccessful ballot initiative that called for moving legislative sessions. He plans to vote for a measure on the November ballot that would move the Legislature from Juneau to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough or Anchorage.

Dore said he has not researched the legislative move question thoroughly.

Higgins said he plans to re-read the initiative before deciding how to vote, but right now he's inclined to vote for it because he believes the opponents' advertising is misleading. It focuses on whether voters will approve the costs of the move, rather than the move itself, he said.

Sykes opposes moving the Legislature from Juneau.

Cathy Brown is a Juneau writer who has worked for the Empire and The Associated Press.

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