An ad that Senate candidate Dan Sullivan recently released making the claim that he “successfully fought to protect our Second Amendment rights and pass Stand Your Ground,” is under fire by Sullivan’s opposition and now by the fact checking group Politifact, which has fact-checked a handful of ads so far in the Alaska Senate race. Politifact is a project operated by the Tampa Bay Times and its verdict on whether or not an ad is true or false carries weight.
Politifact said Sullivan’s ‘stand your ground’ claim was “false.”
“We found that evidence of Sullivan’s support for ‘stand your ground’ is dubious at best,” Politifact wrote.
For its part, the Sullivan campaign calls Politifact’s false claim false,.
“Dan supported Stand Your Ground then, he supports it now,” Mike Anderson, Sullivan’s spokesperson said.
Let’s summarize: A bill was introduced by Rep. Mark Neuman in the 2009-10 legislative session when Sullivan was the attorney general. The bill broadened the state’s self defense laws by saying that someone who is in danger doesn’t have a “duty to retreat” from a place that they have a legal right to be in. Shortly after it was introduced, an assistant AG wrote a letter--which was leaked to the media, including to this reporter, without Sullivan’s knowledge or consent—claiming that the bill was dangerous.
It had Sullivan’s name on it, which is where the accusations that he doesn’t support ‘stand your ground’ have originated. Assistant Attorney General John Skidmore signed the letter, which is standard practice in the Department.
“In regards to the Department of Law letter in question, Dan didn’t write the letter, he did not see it before it went out, nor does he agree with the attorney who wrote it,,” Anderson, said.
“When you’re in charge of a large department within state government, memos and letters are constantly going out on your letterhead and you don’t always see them all,” Anderson said. “Dan takes responsibility for the actions of his staff, but he didn’t sign off on this letter and it doesn’t represent his views- then or now.”
Neuman, contacted on Wednesday, said that he worked with the Department of Law in 2010 to amend the bill to address some of the concerns in it. Sullivan was attorney general until December 2010, when he then became Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Neuman didn’t work directly with Sullivan, but he assumed that Sullivan was kept abreast of the discussions.
In any case, Neuman said that the department’s opposition was justified, and eventually they got to a place where he got the department’s support.
The version that Neuman and the department came up with in 2010 was one that passed the House the next year with the support of the Department of Law, but it died in the Senate, which was organized around a bipartisan majority and was focused almost exclusively on oil tax issues. The coalition had a tacit agreement to put off controversial bills until the oil tax bill was hammered out.
The very same bill that Neuman worked on with the Department of Law, when Sullivan was AG, was passed in 2013.
“Regardless of that misguided letter, what’s important is that the Department of Law worked with Rep. Neuman to craft a Stand Your Ground law that was simpler and clearer,” Anderson said.
For his part, Neuman is puzzled. “Quite frankly, I don’t understand why it’s getting so blown out of proportion,” Neuman said. “We refined the bill. We made it a better bill. Everyone’s happy with it.”
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org