From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --
Bob Poe formally started his gubernatorial campaign today saying that he's running for Alaska. Not against Gov. Sarah Palin.
But that didn't stop him from taking shots at Palin while talking to reporters at his kickoff event. He asserted she's been out of town and out of touch. Poe, a Democrat, also said the Republican Palin's "divisive, partisan rhetoric" is not good for the state.
Poe said that Palin "may be able to see Russia from her house" but, as the former state director of international trade, he has been involved in actual negotiations with Russian interests.
Palin spokesman Bill McAllister replied that Palin met with the Russian ambassador on Friday and that "if Poe's quoting Tina Fey, then it seems he's the one who wants to talk about stuff other than state business. Maybe he wants to run against Fey?"
As far as divisive partisan rhetoric, McAllister said, that doesn't sound like what's been happening in Alaska the last two years. Palin worked with Democrats and brought people together on oil taxes, a gas pipeline and ethics legislation, he said.
Here's an excerpt from an AP story with more Poe-McAllister exchange, including a response to that "out of town" claim:
"Sarah Palin bragged to the nation she took on Big Oil," Poe said. "This is like publicly telling off your biggest customer. While it may feel good, it doesn't do your business any favors in the long run."
New investment, he said, depends on the perception of the business climate in Alaska.
Despite Palin's pronouncements on progress for a proposed multibillion dollar natural gas pipeline, he said, Palin has been "gaming" the process. Her administration turned a business negotiation into a bureaucratic request for proposals.
A real leader, he said, would bring together current and future natural gas producers, pipeline operators, right-of-way owners, affected communities, state and federal regulators, financial markets and Canadian representatives for negotiations in a businesslike manner, not a political manner.
"Alaska is no further along with the gas pipeline that we were even three years ago," he said. "We will not succeed if we continue this administration's policy of divide and conquer."
McAllister rejected Poe's criticism that Palin's absences have hurt the state. Other governors, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, ran for national office while running their states. Since the election, Palin has been out of the state for five days and she's devoted less than one day to political activity despite numerous requests, McAllister said.
As for the natural gas pipeline process, McAllister said, Palin in 2006 campaigned in response to a plan by former Gov. Frank Murkowski that would have sacrificed state sovereignty and committed the state to a fixed tax rate for decades.
Palin's plan set terms for a project and let companies meet them. The process that followed was approved by the Alaska legislature in 2007, with a contract debated, approved and awarded with legislative review last year.
McAllister wondered if Poe wanted a return to closed negotiations and giveaways.
"I don't see any evidence that that's what the public wants," McAllister said.