GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan has announced that he’s not going to attend the Senate fisheries debate in Kodiak in October. His spokesperson said that he’ll be planning on traveling in rural Alaska during that time. The last debate in Kodiak was pre-primary. Sullivan was scheduled for Marine reservist duty then and couldn’t attend.
Sullivan’s campaign said that 20 organizations have shown an interest in hosting debates, and if they accepted all of them, that’s all they would be doing.
“The Sullivan for Senate campaign is currently finalizing our debate schedule – which will include ample opportunities for Dan and Mark to debate the many issues facing Alaska and the country,” Sullivan spokesperson Mike Anderson said.
That’s all probably true, except that this is a particularly important issue. The fishing industry is Alaska’s largest private-sector employer and fish are the state’s main export product. Imagine a Senate candidate from Iowa, say, skipping a debate on corn.
Fish politics in Alaska are thorny and complex, and it appears that the commercial fisheries are already supporting Sen. Mark Begich, who got the endorsement of the mammoth United Fisherman of Alaska, the largest statewide commercial fishing industry trade association. He also recently received the endorsement of the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association which represents seafood harvesters across the state.
Regardless, if Sullivan is going to be Alaska’s senator, it’s imperative that he proves to the state that he’s willing to show up and get to know the issues. Begich did it when he was running against Stevens. He was all over this state and rarely missed an opportunity to speak to groups.
“I can’t recall a time that a candidate has not participated in the Kodiak debate,” Begich said in a press release as he readied to head back to Washington, D.C., on Friday, skipping a Juneau Chamber of Commerce debate, it should be noted.
Begich continued, and got nasty about it:
It’s a must-do for statewide candidates. It’s not an option. It’s clear he doesn’t have the same Alaska values as we do when it comes to our fisheries, and I think he is doing an incredible disservice to Alaskans. But that is his MO. He avoids issues, only shows up at very controlled settings, and talks in bumper stickers and applause lines, and that’s all he likes to do.
Sullivan, who hasn’t made many glaring mistakes so far, opened himself up to that one. I’m betting that it won’t be the last time we hear about it.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org