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March 1, 2002

As chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, Mark Chryson is the most politically active sponsor of the initiative to move legislative sessions to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

And he has his party's blessing to push the measure.

"That's part of the AIP platform is to move the capital," Chryson said.

Chryson lives in the Mat-Su borough and, like the AIP, staunchly opposes big government. He says his hometown of Wasilla is booming because of private-sector development, but neighboring Palmer is stagnant because its economy revolves around government.

Yet he wants the Legislature in his backyard.

"I just want access to them," said Chryson, who insists he is not trying to leverage more government jobs in his community.

Chryson, 45, has a degree in biology and has held nearly 30 jobs in 18 states. His jobs have included work as a courier, radio announcer, dump attendant, church employee and mud engineer on oil fields. He currently owns CompuDoc, a computer repair company, and Web Alaska, a Web design firm.

Correction ... Mark is really 44

Chryson said he first realized how money affects politics more than 20 years ago as an advocate for a Colorado initiative to limit taxes. He summed up that experience this way:

"I never knew people were so dumb as to believe the lies of the (National Education Association) and their Big Bucks," he wrote on his Web site.

He moved to Alaska in 1987 and joined the Alaskan Independence Party in 1988. Chryson, a gun advocate, garnered national attention one year later when he launched a campaign to oust Republican President George H. Bush from the National Rifle Association.

Bush had promised during his campaign to guarantee the right to keep and bear arms, then "backstabbed" gun owners by imposing the semi-automatic gun ban shortly after he took office, Chryson said.

My "actions were on news shows all around the country. I was being called at all hours of day and night," said Chryson, adding he still fields calls about the petition, which "didn't go anywhere."

Chryson said his "nemesis" in the failed effort was Wayne Anthony Ross, the first vice president of the NRA, now a Republican candidate for Alaska governor.

Ross said he did not take Chryson or his petition seriously.

"I didn't think the guy was a nut," said Ross, an attorney. But "the NRA wasn't about to throw a seated president out. It would have made the NRA a fringe group."

Ross characterized the younger Chryson as "someone on the fringe," but noted that Chryson has since "mellowed a bit, probably."

"He's showed up at Republican Party functions. He's keeping company now with more people that are mainstream," Ross said.

Chryson recently accused Ross of "talking out of both sides of his mouth" during the Bush flap. Chryson took credit for the president's eventual resignation from the gun group, saying, "I believe we put enough pressure on him to quit."

Asked whether Chryson's petition had any bearing on Bush's decision to leave the NRA, Ross said "absolutely not."

Chryson ran for the state Senate in 1992 but lost in the primary. He was elected chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party in 1997, and said he sponsored the session-move initiative partly because the AIP favors it.

Chryson has supported other initiatives and made donations to Free Hemp In Alaska in its quest to legalize marijuana, and to the group Save Your Dividend in its campaign to fight use of permanent fund earnings for government, according to records by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Chryson did not remember who first broached the subject of a session-move petition or who asked him to sponsor it. He said he has never met sponsor James Nelson of Anchor Point, but he has known the other sponsor, Robert Monson of Anchorage, for several years.

Chryson and Nelson were vocal supporters of a 2000 failed ballot measure to cap property taxes, led by Monson and Uwe Kalenka, both of Anchorage. Although Kalenka is not a sponsor of the session-move measure, he is "coordinating everything," said Chryson, who said he befriended Kalenka several years ago.

If voters approve the measure and the session moves to the Mat-Su borough, it's unclear where the Legislature would convene.

However, Chryson has suggested lawmakers could use a building vacated by Sears or space in an abandoned Wasilla mall. Plazas housing Carrs/Safeway grocery stores in Wasilla and Palmer also have space, said Chryson, although he conceded "parking would be more of a headache over there."

The details can be worked out after the measure passes, said Chryson, adding that the initiative sponsors are not responsible for finding a legislative hall.

"Why is it the sponsors have to go and have all the details worked out?" Chryson said. "It's not our job to have all the details worked out."

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