ANCHORAGE -- While the presidential race was a nail-biter nationally, Alaska voters handed Texas Gov. George W. Bush an easy victory.
Bush won about 60 percent of the Alaska vote while Vice President Al Gore captured about 26 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had about 10 percent of the vote while Reform party candidate Pat Buchanan had less than 2 percent.
While most Alaskans are not registered with any party, Bush's support of oil development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge puts him in step with a majority of Alaskans.
''I went Bush on this,'' said 22-year-old Chris Stewart of Anchorage, after voting in his first presidential election. Stewart said he listens to a lot of talk radio and didn't like what he heard about Gore and the way he ran his campaign.
''I just didn't like the way he went about his campaign making it about the rich and the poor,'' Stewart said.
Bush is the latest in a long line of Republican presidential candidates to carry Alaska. Not since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 has a Democratic presidential contender won Alaska.
Development advocates feared a victory by Gore would lead to a ban on development in ANWR as well as a permanent ban on road construction in the Tongass National Forest.
According to a Voter News Service exit poll of 750 Alaska voters Tuesday, nearly all Republicans and about 15 percent of Democrats voted for Bush. In addition, slightly more than half of those who described themselves as moderate voted for Bush. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points for all voters, higher for subgroups.
Nader's longshot campaign didn't make much of a ripple nationally, but he did strike a nerve with independent-minded Alaska voters who felt Gore was not likely to win Alaska.
''I didn't want to vote for the big boys this time around. Like a lot of people I'm not a fan of the two-party system anymore,'' said Janet Stoneburner, a 30-year-old stage manager from Anchorage who voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.
Her husband, Mark, said he also voted for Nader because Gore doesn't have a real chance in Alaska.
''I felt free to vote ... for a third party candidate,'' he said.
Political commentator Pat Buchanan was the only candidate to campaign in the state, but his switch from the Republican Party to the Reform Party cost him support in Alaska. Buchanan won the state's Republican straw poll in 1996 with the support of religious and social conservatives.
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