DNC chairman says Gore playing to win in Alaska

Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Saturday that Vice President Al Gore is playing to win Alaska's three electoral votes in November's presidential election.

But Joe Andrew suggested a more realistic goal may be that Gore not hurt other Democratic candidates at the polls.

''The key is not that Gore necessarily win, but that he not be a drag on the ticket here in the effort to reclaim the Legislature,'' said Andrew, in Anchorage to speak at the Alaska Democratic Party convention.

The party is selecting its delegates to this summer's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Gore was on the 1992 presidential ticket with Bill Clinton that got drubbed in Alaska, receiving only 30 percent of the vote and barely edging out third-party candidate Ross Perot. Four years later, Clinton-Gore won 33 percent in its re-election campaign, compared to 51 percent for Republicans Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.

Over the same period, Democrats have steadily dropped in the 60-member Alaska Legislature from 33 in 1992 to the current 18.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, has displayed considerable strength in the state. Early on Bush locked up endorsements from Alaska's congressional delegation, and in January he won the GOP's non-binding straw poll.

The Republican Party of Alaska is also holding its convention in Palmer this weekend to choose delegates to their national gathering in Philadelphia in July. Party officials did not return a Friday phone call to their Anchorage headquarters.

While vice president, Gore has staked out strong environmental positions that include support of a proposal to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain as wilderness.

The refuge's coastal plain could be sitting atop a huge oil reservoir, and most Alaskans favor exploratory drilling there as a way to reverse declining North Slope production.

Andrew, who has headed the DNC since early 1999, said Gore is not likely to change his views on the refuge, nor would he play down that stance to appeal to pro-development Alaskans.

''He can't hide it,'' he said. ''People who vote on just that issue are going to do that.''

Gore has also supported expansion of the nation's park and refuge system and a slowdown in road-building in national forests

Andrew said Gore's approach in Alaska would focus on the same fscal responsibility and economic prosperity themes that he has been sounding in the Lower 48.

''In 1992, it was 'It's the economy, stupid' because the economy was so bad,'' said Andrew, referring to a Clinton slogan used to upend incumbent George Bush. ''In 2000, it's 'It's the economy, stupid' because the economy is so good.''

Reporter T.A. Badger can be reached at tbadgerap.org.

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