U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, the Republican nominee, and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, the Democratic nominee, have long and sterling records of service to the state of Alaska. No one can doubt their commitment to Alaska and Alaskans. They both want to create jobs and protect the permanent fund. They care about kids and education. They support opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and the construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48.
They both also carry some baggage into this campaign because of their current positions.
Ulmer's association with Gov. Tony Knowles' administration have some painting her as nothing more than a Knowles clone. At one campaign stop, she even asked the audience "Do I look like Tony Knowles?"
Murkowski's position as a U.S. senator has caused some Alaskans to wonder if he would be more useful to them back in Washington, D.C. After all, there is that unfinished business of opening ANWR. People also want to know who will fill his seat if he is elected governor, and that seems like a more-than-fair request.
In deciding who is the best choice to lead the state, Alaskans have plenty of information available to them. We would encourage voters to go to the candidates Web sites -- www.frankmurkowski.com and www.franulmer.com -- for positions on specific issues.
The key issue in the election really boils down to the approach each candidate would take to close the fiscal gap and get Alaska's economy moving.
Murkowski's approach deserves a chance.
His solution to the challenges the state faces is really a shift in focus away from the state's budget gap toward a shift in the unique economic opportunities that are Alaska's because of its abundant resources.
"I want to hold government accountable and create a prosperous future for Alaskans based on balanced development of our state's natural resource wealth," he said in a press release issued earlier this week.
There's no doubt the state is at a crossroads and hurting economically. Clearly, the way we are doing things isn't working to the benefit of all Alaskans.
His vision for a vibrant, thriving Alaska, along with his experience and connections in Washington, D.C., make Murkowski the better candidate to get the state out of the doldrums.
During this week's Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens described the advantage of having Murkowski in the governor's office, as opposed to keeping him in D.C.: an expansion of existing teamwork.
Murkowski will provide a solid connection between the state and Alaska's congressional delegation. He will be in a position to make sure everyone is reading from the same page. A president understanding of Alaska's uniqueness also helps. It may well be an unprecedented opportunity to make things happen in Alaska for Alaskans.
Speaking about the team that he, Murkowski and Congressman Don Young have built over the past two decades-plus in Washington, D.C., Stevens said: "One of us will be in Juneau, and the other two will be in Washington. If we don't succeed, turn us all out."
Most Alaskans would agree that Alaska's congressional delegation has worked for them. The teamwork has been evident. Murkowski as governor presents the opportunity for an already effective team to accomplish even more for Alaska.
Murkowski also holds the potential to end the gridlock in Juneau each legislative session. That alone should earn him some votes.
Alaska is ready for the kind of change of course that Sen. Murkowski can provide as governor. He is not tied to the state's way of doing things. In fact, his many years in the nation's capital may have provided him with a fresher view of how best to accomplish things without reinventing the wheel and creating more red tape.
In a visit to the Clarion earlier this week, Sen. Murkowski was asked how long it would be before Alaskans would notice a change should he win election.
"Right away," he answered.
Alaska is in need of a change. Sen. Murkowski is in the best position to deliver that change quickly. He deserves a chance to put feet to his vision of a state that sets a new pace for opportunities for those who live here.
And, if he and his team don't succeed, Alaskans should follow Sen. Stevens' advice and turn them all out.
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