ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Harry Crawford is an ironworker with a deep-fried Southern drawl and pro-union politics. It is difficult to imagine him hugging a tree.
But Crawford, an incumbent state representative from East Anchorage, is spending much of his re-election effort trying to convince voters that he is not bent on trying to stifle development in Alaska.
“I believe I’ve had to explain it 100 times at the door,” said the first-term Democrat, who tells voters he has lobbied hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.
Crawford is one of many Democratic candidates in Alaska — including gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer — who have come under fire for having the support of environmentalists.
Tom Atkinson, executive director of Alaska Conservation Voters, said he has never seen so much anti-environmentalist election talk in his 31 years in Alaska.
Two Alaska heads of environmental groups, Deborah Williams and Jim Ayers, were even called “enemies of Alaska” in a recent advertisement that linked them to Ulmer.
And the label “extreme environmental groups” seems to be on the lips of Republican candidates statewide. A television ad for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, uses the language.
Republican Art Nelson, Crawford’s opponent for the East Anchorage state House seat, has also used the language in a campaign advertisement, and said it resonates with voters who are tired of groups that seem opposed to all development in Alaska.