A trio of Republicans vying for the job of lieutenant governor are making campaign swings around the Kenai Peninsula this week and spoke Tuesday at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
They were appealing for votes in the Aug. 27 primary election and promising that resource development would be the watchword of a Republican administration come December.
Oozing confidence, all three predicted they'd join Republican gubernatorial candidate Frank Murkowski on the GOP ticket and that their party would emerge from the November general election in firm control of the executive and legislative branches of Alaska's government.
Speaking were Sen. Loren Leman of Anchorage, Sen. Robin Taylor of Wrangell and former Rep. Gail Phillips of Homer.
Taylor spent 10 years in the Alaska House of Representatives before being elected to the Alaska Senate in 1993. He served as Senate Majority Leader from 1995 to 1998. He has been an Alaska resident for 40 years.
Leman, a lifelong Alaskan who was raised in Ninilchik, has spent the last 14 years in the Legislature -- in the House from 1989 to 1992 and since then in the Senate.
Phillips, another lifelong Alaskan, served in the Alaska House from 1991 to 2000. She was House Majority Leader from 1993 through 1994 and then served four years as Speaker of the House.
The three outlined their visions for Alaska and noted where the state, in their opinions, has gotten off track. Much of it was familiar conservative catechism calling for a smaller government that would stay out of the way of private enterprise.
Leman told the the capacity chamber audience he favors less government spending and said he was running to be part of a team that would work to develop the state's vast resources.
"Rather than thinking up excuses of why we should spend more and tax you more, we need a government that lives within its means," he said.
Alaska should support good development, not hinder it, he continued.
He called for accountability in education.
"We spend about a billion dollars a year in state money on education, and we can improve the delivery of that service," he said.
Finally, Leman focused on what he sees as the cornerstone of a successful Alaska -- strong families. Without them, everything else pales in importance.
"I've concluded that strong families are better than all the social programs money can buy," he said.
Taylor said he started his Alaska experience as a commercial fisher. Later he became a teacher, lawyer and judge -- all of which has given him a clear perspective on what it takes to be a success in Alaska, he said. The development of Alaska's resource wealth is key, he said.
"I believe we have to turn this state around. We're a resource-based state. There isn't a single school in this state that opens its doors because anybody passed an income tax bill," he said.
"Those schools don't open their doors because there are a bunch of bureaucrats sitting in Juneau. Those schools open their doors because somebody punched a hole in the ground on the North Slope and we got oil out of it. We have got to have resource jobs, and we have got to have resource development, and we can no longer allow it to be killed."
Phillips said she took to the road in Alaska 16 months ago to hear from residents how the next administration should run the state.
"I can tell you unequivocally that there are several messages loud and clear throughout this state," she said. "One message that resonates everywhere I've been ... is that Alaska must put together a workable, viable fiscal plan that is going to carry us into the future.
"We are not at that position today. We have two years of savings left before we are going to have to take drastic action in this state."
Alaskans also want a transportation infrastructure plan to open up resources so new wealth can be created, she said.
"We are not creating enough new wealth in Alaska," she said. "It's being felt all over this state."
She said two core values should anchor the state's future.
"Caring for one another and a can-do attitude," she said. "With those two things in place, we can do anything we set our minds to."
The lieutenant governor oversees elections. Phillips said she thought the new electronic voting system had made a great improvement in elections. Leman said he'd work to make it easier for people with disabilities to cast ballots. Taylor said elections pretty much take care of themselves, though he added he thought any system could be tampered with.
Of greater importance, he said, however, is the lieutenant governor's duties regarding regulations. He said new regulations proposed by various state agencies must be reviewed by the lieutenant governor's office and that he was the one to cut regulatory red tape.
Asked what they thought the Kenai Peninsula most needed, the candidates again focused on development, more jobs and better schools.
They also spoke with the Peninsula Clarion apart from the chamber function. Each was asked how his or her administration would differ from the past eight years of Gov. Tony Knowles' administration.
Phillips said in the first few years of the Knowles administration legislative leaders worked well with the governor's office. But that cooperative atmosphere is gone now, she said.
"At that time, you didn't have the disharmony that we have today," she said. "Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of animosity between the administration and the legislative leaders and the Legislature today, and you can't get anything done when you have that."
She acknowledged there was "plenty of blame to go around," and promised that would change if she and Murkowski are elected.
Taylor said Knowles was a developer only "to the extent he is bought and paid for by British Petroleum." He said Knowles failed to support Southeast Alaska when it was fighting to protect the logging industry.
"Tony was nowhere to be found," he said.
He blamed Knowles' connection to the environmental lobby. He also said he believes Democratic Party candidate for governor Fran Ulmer "will be even more green."
Leman said that while Knowles is and was development-oriented in some areas, his spending and social policies were liberal.
"That will be a big difference in a Murkowski-Leman administration," he said. "One of the big differences, and one of the reasons that I'm running, is to be part of a team that will work with the Legislature."
The governor and the Legislature, he said, have been pulling in opposite directions.
"A lot of things we accomplished despite him," he said.
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