by Darren Pai
HONOLULU (KHNL) - It appears Sen. Dan Akaka's support for oil drilling in Alaska won't cost him the support of environmental advocates.
Akaka said he originally voted for oil drilling after visiting the state in 1995. He said during that visit he was asked by alaskan natives to support drilling because it would expand the local economy.
"I had to take their word for it," Akaka said. "And I did commit myself to them and over the years it has been very difficult because as you know, my side is against it."
Now Akaka plans to visit the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge next summer. The Sierra Club said once he sees it in full bloom he'll change his mind, so it's backing his re-election campaign.
"We're given an opportunity to have a fresh look at this and to talk to the people again and to update what I know," Akaka said. "So we'll see what comes off that."
The Sierra Club endorsed Akaka's Republican challenger Cynthia Thielen for the State House. She said she's the stronger candidate on environmental issues.
"I'm active, I'm energetic, I have a proven track record on winning on environmental issues," Thielen said. "And that is exactly what i will do in Washington."
When it comes to environmental issues, the Sierra Club said both candidates have strong records. However the group said there is one deciding factor, Akaka's years of service in congress.
"Her renewable energy position is outstanding, yet she has no seniority," said Lance Holter of the Sierra Club. "She would not have seniority in the senate."
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