Lieutenant governor candidate Jay Ramras made his first campaign trip to Juneau on Thursday, but that follows many trips by the outspoken Fairbanks Republican as a member of the state House of Representatives.
Ramras is challenging incumbent Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell in the Republican primary. Campbell was appointed to the seat by Gov. Sarah Palin before to her July resignation.
Ramras is in his third term in the House and said he'd be running for lieutenant governor on that record.
"I take a lot of pride in my five years in the Legislature, and in being a catalyst for a higher level of discussion," he said.
In Juneau, Ramras talked of his support for the capital, and met with local Republicans, including Party Chair Ben Brown and businessman and former commissioner Bill Corbus.
"I'm for keeping the capital in Juneau in perpetuity," Ramras said.
Ramras said that the commissioners, the executives who head the state's principal departments, should be based in Juneau as well.
That's something that former Govs. Frank Murkowski, a Republican, and Tony Knowles, a Democrat, both required.
"I think that was one of the very positive things Gov. Murkowski brought to the capital, and I thought we had a very high caliber of commissioners working in the Knowles administration as well," he said.
Ramras, however, was a primary backer of the locally unpopular 90-day legislative session limit that was narrowly approved by voters in 2009. Regular sessions had been 120-days long.
Ramras disputed that it was unpopular, but acknowledged that it was "not viewed positively by my colleagues." It passed by statewide ballot initiative 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent, but more than 60 percent of Juneau voters were opposed.
Top legislators have criticized the measure, saying it results in less time to review legislation and fewer opportunities for the public to learn about and comment on bills.
Ramras, though, said it will help keep the capital in Juneau by making more people able to serve. Ramras was one of the sponsors of the 90-day session initiative, after legislators failed to pass similar legislation.
Ramras said that coming from Fairbanks, he understands what it can be like for a community to be threatened with loss of one of its economic mainstays. His city recently narrowly avoided losing its Air Force base.
Ramras said as a candidate, and possibly with the lieutenant governor's bully pulpit, he hopes to influence the quality, tone and direction of the debate on state issues.
In the Legislature, Ramras has been known as an ally of the oil industry, and a frequent critic of fellow Republican Sarah Palin.
One of Palin's achievements as governor was passage of the Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share Act, a significant tax increase on the oil industry that Ramras opposed. He said ACES would hurt oil production.
"I voted no on those changes, and I believe they are bad for Alaska's resource development," he said.
Other resource industries Ramras said he supported included timber and mining, which he said have both been regulated too much.
The Ketchikan and Sitka areas can support much more logging Ramras said, and he said he would support a harvest of "the maximum amount that can be safely taken out," he said.
"We've choked the (timber) industry right out of existence, now we're doing the same thing with tourism and doing the same thing with oil and gas" he said.
Ramras owns Fairbanks-area lodging and dining establishments that are heavily reliant on cruise ship passengers who extend their trips into the interior.
That's valuable experience for a top state official, he said.
"We need business people at the state level who know what it means to create a job and meet a payroll," he said.
The Republican primary is in August 2010.
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