When Alaska voters go to the polls Nov. 7, they'll have seven presidential candidates who hold very different views on key issues important to the state.
The major party candidates, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, have expressed their opposite positions on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the debates and campaign speeches. Even late-night TV comic David Letterman brought up ANWR when Bush was a recent guest.
But other Alaska issues have not been discussed, particularly by the candidates representing smaller political parties.
Libertarian Harry Browne favors selling off all government assets, including ANWR, according to a spokesman, while Green Party candidate Ralph Nader wants to ban all logging in national forests, including the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. Nader also is courting Alaska Native voters, calling for a federal investigation into the murders of several Native women.
Pat Buchanan, the standard-bearer of the Reform Party with a wide following in Alaska, wants to develop ANWR and some potentially oil-rich offshore areas that are now off limits.
John Hagelin, nominee of the Natural Law party, presents a broad environmental platform that emphasizes renewable energy resources.
Following are brief summaries of the candidates' positions on major Alaska issues:
George W. Bush, Republican Party
A former oilman who worked for an Alaska pipeline service company in the early 1970s, Bush has made development of ANWR a central theme of his campaign. He differs sharply with Gore on the potential impacts of drilling the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain of the refuge.
"Gore says he would rather protect ANWR than gain the energy," Bush said in a Michigan speech. "But this is a false choice. We can do both - taking out energy and leaving only footprints."
Championing the industry line, Bush says technological advances of the last decade have greatly diminished the environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration.
And Bush proposed a novel plan for using the revenue gained from ANWR drilling - pay for energy conservation efforts and a popular program that gives aid to poor families to pay their heating bills.
However, Bush has twisted his facts a bit. On the Letterman show in mid-October, he confused the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope with developing oil in ANWR. And the heating aid has always been paid out of the Department of Health and Human Services budget that includes other welfare programs.
Bush supports what he calls responsible timber cutting in the Tongass National Forest, as described in the 2000 Republican platform, a spokesman said.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican who has coordinated efforts with the Bush campaign, said, "On timber we will never resurrect the industry to the point it was before, but we can get a steady timber management process."
On subsistence, Bush takes a states' rights approach, according to Alaska campaign chairman Art Hackney.
"He is very much a states' rights person," said Hackney. "Subsistence is the kind of thing he wants to let the states decide for themselves."
Al Gore, Democratic Party
Since the beginning of the Clinton administration nearly eight years ago, Gore has been the leading voice on environmental issues. His hand-picked nominee, Katie McGinty, headed the Council on Environmental Quality until recently, and other allies dot the agencies that review conservation programs.
Gore was a key player in the internal debates that resulted in Clinton vetoing a budget bill that would have opened ANWR to drilling.
During the debate in Boston, Gore said, "Gov. Bush is proposing to open up some of our most precious environmental treasures, like ANWR, to the big oil companies to go in and start producing oil there. I think that is the wrong choice. It would only give us a few months worth of oil and the oil wouldn't start flowing for many years into the future. I don't think it's a fair price to pay, to destroy precious parts of America's environment."
Gore also has been heavily involved in the Clinton administration decisions on timber management of the Tongass, including the controversial cancellation in 1994 of the long-term timber contract held by Alaska Pulp Corp.
During the campaign, Gore said he wants to go farther than Clinton to prevent logging in roadless areas, including the Tongass. Clinton exempted the Tongass from his roadless initiative.
In a May interview, Gore said he would bar logging as well as road building in all roadless areas and would extend the same protection to the Tongass.
He told the New York Times he wants "to preserve these roadless areas as they are, no ifs, ands or buts about it. No more destructive development. No new road-building and no timber sales in the roadless areas. Period."
On subsistence issues, Gore has supported the federal takeover of fish and game management in Alaska.
Ralph Nader, Green Party
Nader, a longtime citizen activist, is running a populist campaign that appeals to many Alaskans. He constantly rails against big corporations and champions environmental causes.
Nader is strongly opposed to oil drilling in the Arctic refuge, favoring development of alternative energy sources.
In a nationally televised debate with Buchanan, Nader called ANWR drilling "a temporary fix for an inebriated system." Before another energy crisis hits, the federal government should invest in solar, wind and biomass systems, Nader said.
Nader has spoken out forcefully in opposition to Tongass timber cutting.
In a letter to the Sierra Club outlining his environmental positions, Nader called the Tongass "a national treasure already peppered with clearcuts."
Nader wrote: "It is especially important that the Tongass National Forest be protected immediately as it is the largest pristine forest remaining in the U.S. as well as one of the last large temperate rain forests in the world. I would veto all bills that might include provisions to dismantle any aspect of this national forest protection policy."
A spokesman said Nader would side with Alaska Natives on subsistence issues. His running mate, Winona LaDuke, is an American Indian.
In mid-October, Nader issued a statement calling for a federal inquiry into recent murders of several Alaska Native women in Anchorage to see if their civil rights were violated.
"Until Alaska Natives, whatever their economic station or personal situation, are perceived as citizens and human beings equal to non-Natives, they will be targeted for violence and exploitation in both urban and rural Alaska," Nader said.
Pat Buchanan, Reform Party
Buchanan, who resigned from the Republican Party one year ago and now leads the Reform Party ticket, has campaigned and advertised in Alaska.
At a recent Anchorage appearance, Buchanan said, "Alaska suffers from the fact that the environmental extremists are targeting Alaska, and the federal bureaucrats look upon Alaska as their private playpen."
Buchanan supports drilling in ANWR, saying at the debate with Nader, "It's only a portion of it. There's five billion barrels of oil there. But more important, the United States, instead of busting up Microsoft, an American asset, ought to have a national policy to break up the OPEC cartel."
He also favors a study of the potential of an oil import fee to stimulate conservation and new drilling and wants to take steps to make natural gas and coal more competitive.
On Tongass timber management, Buchanan favors logging "in a proper manner," according to Ed Wassell, state coordinator of the campaign.
In an issue paper, Buchanan said Americans have "a Biblically-based obligation to be good stewards of the land." He supports private property rights, adding, "No one is more qualified to conserve land than the people who live on it."
On subsistence, Buchanan believes you cannot violate the state constitution, Wassell said. "If the people amend it, that's a different story," he said.
Harry Browne, Libertarian Party
Browne has not taken a position on drilling in ANWR, according to spokesman Robert Brunner. "In general, he favors selling off government assets to pay for Social Security annuities. If the Sierra Club wants to buy it, more power to them," he said.
The same philosophy would apply to the Tongass National Forest, Brunner said. "Once again he would look to get rid of the assets. He wants to sell off national forests," he said.
In a position paper, Browne said, "The answer to environmental problems isn't to expand the reach of government, but to shrink it. We cannot expect environmental problems to be solved by the same government agencies who are currently destroying our forests, creating improperly maintained nuclear waste dumps and eroding the soil from western lands through irresponsible mining leases."
On subsistence, Brunner said Browne would be sympathetic to Alaska Natives. "If it is their land, no one has a right to tell them what to do," he said.
John Hagelin, Natural Law Party
Hagelin opposes development of ANWR, which he believes will not solve America's energy problems.
Campaign spokesman Robert Roth said, "He believes we need to break our addiction to fossil fuels and put more emphasis on renewable sources of energy. Drilling in ANWR is a political short-term solution at best."
In an issue paper, Hagelin writes, "I am committed to increasing both energy efficiency and the use of renewable, safe and nonpolluting energy sources, such as wind, solar and biomass. This approach will protect our environment, create energy self- sufficiency and add to our economic prosperity."
Hagelin also opposes large-scale timber harvesting of the Tongass National Forest, Roth said.
"He believes in setting aside areas where logging is not allowed," the spokesman said. "I don't know if this will endear him to people in Alaska."
On subsistence, Roth said Hagelin has not focused on the Alaska issue, but would try to work out a compromise.
Howard Phillips, Constitution Party
Phillips, a Harvard-educated native of Boston, is heading the ticket of the Constitution Party, formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party. He also has been chairman of the Conservative Caucus since 1974.
Phillips supports development of ANWR and timber cutting in the Tongass National Forest. His campaign spokeswoman declined to give details of his positions on other Alaska issues.
In an issue paper on the environment, Phillips writes, "Our children learn that private property rights must be respected, even by civil government, and that theft violates God's commandments, even when it is accomplished by majority vote."
On subsistence, Phillips believes "this is a matter to be determined by the people of Alaska," the spokeswoman said.
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