ANCHORAGE - U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton on Thursday touted the benefits of electing Republican Frank Murkowski governor, while Democrat Fran Ulmer enlisted her boss to deny that development has been lacking in the past eight years.
Gov. Tony Knowles, the target of criticism by the Murkowski campaign, said Murkowski's claims have bordered on amazing, such as a contention that no roads have been built from scratch under Knowles' administration.
"I think there are certainly parts of Murkowski's campaign that kind of remind me of the (John) Lindauer campaign," Knowles said, referring to the Republican Knowles defeated four years ago in his re-election bid, and the varying stories that arose over where Lindauer received his campaign money.
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"He just makes things up," Knowles said. "He fabricates."
Norton, addressing the Associated General Contractors, said she carries forward the Bush administration philosophy of trying to make decisions close to the people affected.
She said she was enthusiastic about having Murkowski as governor of Alaska.
"He will play a key role in making sure that Alaska's views are carried forward to Washington," Norton said. "His understanding of the federal government and how we can work together between the federal government and the state agencies is critically important for my department's relations with the state of Alaska."
She praised Murkowski for hard work and enthusiasm on federal energy legislation.
"There's nobody who has fought harder for energy legislation," Norton said, citing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a proposed natural gas pipeline.
Norton was the latest cabinet secretary to visit Alaska in support of Murkowski.
In August, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson appeared at fund-raisers for Murkowski. In September, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham stopped in for an appearance on his way back from a trip to Russia.
Knowles appeared at a press conference at Ulmer's campaign headquarters.
"Frank Murkowski's campaign has consistently distorted the record on the economy of the state of Alaska," Ulmer said.
"He talks about how we've got to get oil and gas going but he doesn't admit that 25 percent of the oil that's flowing through the pipeline today come on during this administration," Ulmer said.
Under the areawide leasing program, Knowles said, 4.2 million acres of state land have been leased, bringing in more than $100 million.
Knowles said Ulmer has been a key partner in creating a pro-business environment that moved Alaska forward.
Knowles cited record low unemployment, 30,000 new jobs and a total payroll that grew from $8.2 billion in 1994 to $9.6 billion in 2000 as accomplishments during his administration.
He said Alaska has the highest median household income in the United States and that home ownership has grown to a record 65 percent.
More than 6,000 Alaska families moved from welfare to work, saving the state $228 million, Knowles said.
As for Murkowski's criticism of transportation policies, Knowles cited the road to Whittier as a new road on his watch, but said his emphasis has been on improving what Alaska has.
"You don't think there have been roads built in this state? Have you driven to Kenai lately? The road to Girdwood? The safety that's been improved?" Knowles asked.
Improvements have shaved 45 minutes to an hour off a trip down the Kenai Peninsula, but more importantly, made the highways safer.