Candidates for U.S. Senate Dan Sullivan and Sen. Mark Begich met on-stage at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage Friday.
Both candidates agreed that Alaska’s subsistence management system was “broken.” Each candidate’s solution, however, was different. Begich supports more federal involvement
“I get requests now from many different parts of the community of Alaska asking for more federal control in the sense of managing the subsistence rights, because they believe the state is not listening,” Begich said. “An example of that was when the commercial fishing was closed, subsistence was closed, and then when they reopened, commercial got the opening first and subsistence did not.”
“I wrote a strong letter to the governor about this, that subsistence rights are a fundamental right.”
Sullivan told the audience he understands the importance of subsistence. He talked about his wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, the daughter of Mary Jane Fate, a once-prominent figure in the Alaska Federation of Natives. He talked about spending summers at the family fish camp. He thinks that more state involvement is key to fixing subsistence, not less. At the end of his answer, he defended himself to delegates for his role in representing the State of Alaska in the Katie John case, a case that AFN was involved in for 19 years. AFN saw the state’s appeals of the case as an attack on subsistence rights.
“When I was attorney general I did participate in an element of the Katie John case,” Sullivan said. “This has been a case going on for decades. It was no personal lawsuit against Katie John, I have the deepest respect for like I do my mother-in-law.”
“That case was about when I was involved that extent of state control over our rivers and as Alaska’s attorney general I advocated for more state control not control from the federal government and that’s the way most state officials have done that.”
After the forum, volunteers with signs reading “Follow me to Vote” appeared. The volunteers led people over across the street to city hall where ballots for all precincts across the state were available for early voting.