Labor leader leaves smiling after convention holdout

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mano Frey left the Democratic National Convention smiling Thursday, confident he had planted in Al Gore's campaign the notion of responsible development on Alaska's federal lands.

The labor leader didn't even bother to stay for Gore's nomination speech, saying ''mission accomplished'' as he bid the rest of the delegation goodbye.

After threatening all week to withhold his vote as a delegate, Frey, the head of the Alaska AFL-CIO, won a Wednesday meeting with Mark Messenbaugh, a Gore senior policy advisor, to talk about the candidate's policies on mining, logging and oil development on federal land.

Following the meeting in the bowels of the Staples Center, Frey returned to say he looked forward to working with the Gore campaign to develop a pro-development statement regarding Alaska -- and signed his name as a Gore supporter.

On Thursday morning, Roy Neel, another of Gore's senior advisors, stopped by to thank Alaska's delegation for helping nominate Gore unanimously.

''It's a small delegation, obviously, it's a small number of electoral votes,'' Neel said. ''But every vote counts.''

Frey seized the opportunity of Neel's visit to reinforce his points about keeping Alaska's federal lands open.

''Many Alaskans have concerns about not being an afterthought, not being locked up,'' Frey said.

Neel said Gore is committed to economic development and realizes that growth and environmental protection aren't mutually exclusive.''

''There is a way this is going to work,'' he said.

Frey, already confident after Thursday's meeting, beamed as Neel departed.

Gore's ties to environmental groups opposed to oil drilling, mining and logging on federal lands in Alaska worried some of the state's delegation. They feared their calls for responsible development of those resources would be lost because Alaska's three electoral votes will almost certainly go to Republican George W. Bush.

''It turned out great,'' said Anna Bell Stevens, a delegate from Anchorage, who was in Frey's faction. ''If he and I hadn't held out, it would never have happened.''

Willie Anderson, chairman of Gore's campaign in Alaska, sat in on Frey's meeting with Messenbaugh and called it very productive, though he said no concessions were made.

Others delegates were happy to avoid the embarrassment of a showy demonstration of Alaskans in hard hats calling for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Democratic Party platform calls for a ban on drilling the refuge and any further logging in the Tongass National Forest.

Marilyn Heiman, a delegate who works as U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's top aide in Alaska, hoped for a focus on less controversial development prospects, such as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas under the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

''I thought it was pretty uneventful as far as the hard-hat thing,'' Heiman said. ''It got defused.''

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