Some politicians quoted in the press have recently raised concerns that the power of Sen. Ted Stevens might somehow be diminished if former Gov. Tony Knowles is elected to the U.S. Senate. As one who has known, worked with and followed the careers of these talented and dedicated individuals, I think the two would make a strong, effective team for Alaska.
I have watched Ted Stevens work for Alaska since the early days of statehood and, simply put, there is no senator more effective. He has both the vision and the horsepower to get things done. Stevens' myriad accomplishments are not really in question here, but I will note that in his three-plus decades of service as a U.S. senator, he has consistently delivered for Alaska - regardless of who was in power.
Stevens effectively wielded his influence for Alaska even when Democrats controlled Congress or the White House, which was the case for the majority of his years in office. To suggest that having a Democrat in office might undermine his clout is to sell our senior senator short.
Likewise, I have followed the career of Tony Knowles. During his 14 years as a two-term mayor of Anchorage and two-term governor of our state, Knowles, too, has delivered for Alaska and proven he can work well with Stevens.
As mayor, Knowles and Stevens worked together to address some of Anchorage's basic needs long into the future such as the Eklutna landfill. As governor, Knowles worked closely with Stevens and invested $4 billion in mostly federal dollars to improve Alaska's roads and highways and upgrade the Ted Stevens International Airport, one of the main drivers of Anchorage's economy.
The two worked together to bring sanitation up from third world standards. Knowles supported Stevens' farsighted commitment to tackle other pressing rural needs through the Denali Commission and will support continued funding for it when in the Senate. They broke a decades long impasse on the Pacific Salmon Treaty when Stevens secured funding for Knowles' idea of a Sustainable Salmon Fund.
And let's not forget the gasline and ANWR, two issues where Knowles has worked closely with our congressional delegation to commercialize our tremendous natural gas resources and unlock the coastal plain to exploration and development. We've yet to win these battles, but Knowles' influence as governor proved decisive on other key federal issues such as lifting the oil export ban and opening the National Petroleum Reserve.
In any election cycle, readers can expect a lot of editorial hand-wringing, but to fret how Knowles' election might affect Stevens' power is just off base. Nobody is predicting a Democratic takeover of the Senate in 2004, and even if that occurred, as one might reasonably expect sometime in the future, it underestimates the bipartisan effectiveness of Ted Stevens.
Most importantly, it ignores the fact that Tony Knowles has proven himself an effective advocate and leader for Alaska. With the Senate so narrowly divided, it makes sense for Alaska to have a strong voice in both national parties. Looking ahead the next 20 years, what better than to have senators on both sides of the aisle?
Tony Knowles and Ted Stevens would make a great team in the U.S. Senate. It would be a partnership that puts Alaska first for a long time to come.
Jack Roderick is a former mayor of the Greater Anchorage Borough, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the author of "Crude Dreams, a Personal History of Oil and Politics in Alaska."
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