Backbone is coming together again. That’s the public interest group that was organized in the nineties to protect the state’s interest against B-P’s attempts to gain more control over the North Slope. This time, the group’s leaders want to promote and support the bi-partisan approach to government that has controlled the Senate since 2007.
The 1999 merger between B-P and Atlantic Richfield would have also merged ARCO-Alaska with B-P. And the organizers of Backbone saw that as giving one company too much control of the North Slope and the TransAlaska Pipeline system. Following Backbone’s visible activity, the state forced concessions from B-P.
This time the public interest group wants to keep fractious partisan politics from becoming a part of the Alaska political scene. Malcolm Roberts was one of the original members. He says since the first steps of getting statehood, Alaskans have not relied on party structures.
The sort of partisan message from the United States – particularly the platforms of the political parties – it doesn’t fit Alaska. We have a whole different set of opportunities and issues here. And so we need our best people to lead our legislature. And that’s why the Backbone group is supporting the bi-partisan coalition in the Senate, and we would like to see the House do the same.
Roberts – who worked for former-Governor Wally Hickel — began working with non-partisan activities after the 2010 elections. He says the Backbone structure came back together long before Republican Governor Parnell vowed last week to work to break up the bi-partisan Senate.
This is not “anti” anybody. It’s “pro” those who stand up for Alaska first, regardless of party.
The original bipartisan organization came about when eleven Republicans could not successfully organize after the 2006 elections. A group of them joined with Democrats to form the new coalition. Sitka Republican Bert Stedman has been part of the Senate Bipartisan group since then. He says the current ten-to-ten party split requires a coalition, and the foundation was already in place for it. And he says those who were not in the working group made their own decisions to remain separate.
I’m elected to represent my district. You can’t represent your district near as effectively if you’re in the minority as you can in the majority. And in particular if you’re in rural Alaska. If you’re in Anchorage, you’ve got numerous other Senators that can cover the community. In rural Alaska you don’t have that opportunity.
Stedman is running as a Republican this year against Democratic Senator Albert Kookesh under the new redistricting plan. Since both of them are members of the bi-partisan coalition, he says that is not as much an issue locally.
Backbone’s Roberts says the group will kick off its efforts at a press conference next week at the Captain Cook Hotel.
Governor Parnell was not available for comment.