By BOB ANEZ/AP Political Writer
HELENA - How wide open the governor's office door will be next year depends a lot on who gets elected.
The six candidates for the job promise different degrees of accessibility if elected, but not all of them said they would follow the lead of recent chief executives by having almost all of their meetings open to the public.
In fact, two candidates - Republican Pat Davison and Democrat Brian Schweitzer - did not directly answer a question about their willingness to conduct open meetings as governor.
On another issue, three candidates said they would work to mend the rift between environmentalists and natural resource development advocates, while three took more contentious stands on the subject.
Those questions were among several posed by The Associated Press to the six men running for governor, asking about their views on issues and their plans should they win in November. The candidates were given 10 days to respond. All but Republican Bob Brown met the deadline; his answers were submitted 19 hours late.
Most of the candidates professed a commitment to open and accessible government and said they will take steps to promote that attitude in their administrations.
''Government's business is the people's business, period,'' said Democrat John Vincent of Bozeman.
''Transparency is one of the most vital components of a healthy democracy,'' fellow Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Whitefish said. ''Government should be an open book.''
''I believe in open government with as much citizen access to the administrative and legislative process as possible,'' wrote Republican Pat Davison of Billings.
He said he will have regular ''open-office hours'' in which citizens can come in and visit, and will appear in monthly ''Ask the Governor'' TV and radio shows. But he said he will not list his home phone number, a practice of former Gov. Marc Racicot but not of Gov. Judy Martz.
Vincent said he will list his phone, and the only meetings that would be closed in the governor's office are those required by law to be private. He did not cite any examples, but the policy of the past two governors was to have all meetings open unless individual privacy demanded otherwise.
Few, if any, announced meetings by Racicot and Martz were closed during their terms.
Vincent said he will hold weekly news conferences during legislative sessions and monthly news conferences during the remainder of the year, a procedure used by Martz recently. He also said he would forbid secrecy among personal staff and Cabinet members unless mandated by law, and would set aside one day a month to meet with citizens in his office.
''No appointments necessary,'' he said. ''Just come in, pull up a chair and tell me what's on your mind.''
Schweitzer said he, too, would list his phone number and promised to remain as personally accessible to the news media as he has been in his campaigns.
Republican Ken Miller of Laurel said he would close meetings with citizens or other government officials whenever requested, but said his home and cell phone numbers would be public, as well as a personal e-mail address.
Brown promised open meetings except to protect the privacy of individuals and that his phone number would be public.
Tom Keating, Republican from Billings, offered the most restrictive policy. He said all meetings with his Cabinet and staff would be secret, although his phone number would not. He said government is open and accessible enough as it is.
Brown, Schweitzer and Vincent struck conciliatory tones when asked about resolving the ongoing feud between environment and development.
Brown said he'd like to get environmental groups to agree on pilot projects to allow industry a chance to demonstrate that certain projects will not harm the air or water.
''I want to persuade those opposed to the use of our natural resources that we can create jobs, generate tax revenue, while maintaining or even improving our natural environment,'' he said.
Vincent said he would create a ''Corps of Recovery,'' a 45-member task force representing business, political, labor, education, environmental and development interests. The group will be asked to come up with ideas for economic improvement, including how to balance the demands for development and environmental protection.
Schweitzer, while professing he could help both sides find common ground, did not comply with the request for specific proposals to accomplish that.
Miller said ''radical extremists'' should stop blocking development and put their effort into sponsoring environmental projects that will help the economy, although he provided no specifics. Miller also suggested organizations challenging a project on environmental grounds should have to pay a bond equal to the cost of the project, and then forfeit that money if they lose the case.
Keating said he will ask for repeal of three environmental laws that he believes have crippled investment, blocked development and cost the state jobs since they were adopted.
Davison vowed to fight ''extreme environmental interests that want to lock up our lands and lock out the people and jobs that depend on careful management of natural resources for their livelihood.''
He repeated his plan, released earlier this month, to expand timber cutting, streamline the government permitting process and support control of noxious weeds.