GOP turns its back on Rep. Young's lands bill

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Republican Party of Alaska adopted a resolution at its state convention Saturday opposing a landmark bill sponsored by their fellow Republican, Rep. Don Young.

Young's bill, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House this month, would spend federal money from offshore oil development to add land to national parks and wildlife refuges. Alaska stands to gain about $2.5 billion over the next 15 years if the Conservation and Reinvestment Act passes the Senate and becomes law.

But conservatives and property-rights advocates, who traditionally support Young, say the Conservation and Reinvestment Act is expensive and will lock up land.

''CARA goes against the heart and soul of what it means to be a Republican,'' Alaska Republicans Ray Kreig, Tom Fink and Mark Ringstad wrote in a letter to fellow convention delegates.

The resolution, which Kreig said passed overwhelmingly at party's weekend convention in Palmer, urges that the bill be amended to reflect Republican principles of individual liberty and the freedom to own property.

Curtis Thayer, a Young loyalist and former aide to the congressman, said the ''far right wing'' took over the convention.

Tuckerman Babcock, the new party chairman, said the allegation that the far right is excluding others is ''absolutely absurd.'' The party's list of delegates to the national convention, for example, draws from all factions and is as balanced as he's ever seen, Babcock said.

The resolution opposing Young's bill passed with little debate, hours after the scheduled end of the two-day convention, after many delegates had already left, Thayer said.

''I think a lot of people just went home in disgust,'' Thayer said.

Rex Shattuck, the party's press secretary, said he didn't know how many of the 450 delegates were present when the resolution passed, but he thought it was more than half.

''All of the voting was done before most of the people had left,'' Shattuck said.

Also at the convention, state party chairman Tom McKay resigned putting vice chairman Babcock in the top spot for the next two years.

''It was just too much, with work and everything,'' said McKay, an engineer at Phillips Alaska Petroleum Inc.

The party also changed its rules to ban paid political consultants from holding party office.

''When you're paid, your master is your employer,'' McKay said. ''Sometimes party decisions have to be made in an unbiased manner.''

The changes cost campaign consultant Art Hackney his seat on the executive committee.

Hackney, who recently worked on the campaign of Anchorage Mayor-elect George Wuerch, said it was more important to him that he achieved his main goal, which was to have Young, Murkowski and Stevens named delegates to the national Republican convention, a move he said met with opposition. Hackney was also named as a delegate.

Another rule change prohibits party officers from speaking ill of other Republicans.

''We've had a couple of incidents where party officers publicly attacked party incumbents,'' McKay said. ''It creates a lot of problems, a lot of acrimony.''

The convention also considered a raft of resolutions and party planks. Delegates said most, if not all, of them passed. The final copies won't be available for a week or more, Shattuck said.

Among the resolutions presented at the convention were those opposing abortion, opposing a rural preference for subsistence and supporting legislative confirmation for state judges.

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