Anchorage Daily News - Tuesday, May 23, 2000
GOP TURNS ITS BACK ON YOUNG
STATE PARTY MEMBERS OPPOSE LAND MEASURE
By Liz Ruskin, Daily News reporter
The Republican Party of Alaska adopted a resolution at its state convention Saturday opposing the grandest political achievement of Alaska's Republican congressman, 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. Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski said he supports the bill and will push it in the Senate.
Conservatives and property-rights advocates, who traditionally support Young, say the bill 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 the convention in Palmer on Saturday night, 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.
"They basically kicked Don Young and Frank Murkowski out of this tent," he said. "They kicked Ted Stevens out long ago."
Tuckerman Babcock, the new party chairman, said the allegation that the far right is excluding others from the tent 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 the party didn't intend to exclude anyone.
"It is awfully difficult to get a convention over and done with in two days," Shattuck 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.
Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, a former Young ally who led the opposition to Young's bill in the House, was an invited speaker to the convention.
Phone messages to Young's office were not returned Monday.
In other convention news, state party chairman Tom McKay resigned over the weekend, 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.
Babcock said he won a vote of confidence at the convention with 74 percent.
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, though some were amended. 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, supporting legislative confirmation for state judges and urging that the country be called, as it is in the Constitution, "These United States of America" rather than "The."
Another said "fornication, adultery, bestiality and homosexual acts" should be illegal. Thayer, also a convention delegate, said he doesn't think that measure belongs in the party's platform but said it wasn't worth fighting. "Here are people who say 'Keep the government out of our lives,' but on these four issues we want you peeping in our windows to make sure we don't do any of these things," Thayer said.
Reporter Liz Ruskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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