U.S. Senate Candidates Spar Over Resource Development

U.S. Senate candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan sparred Thursday over who can better move Washington to bring more resource development to Alaska. The Anchorage debate was sponsored by the Resource Development Council and associations representing the state’s oil and gas, mining and logging industries.

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Sullivan, sticking to his main campaign strategy, repeatedly tied Begich to President Obama and the Senate’s Democratic leader, Harry Reid. Sullivan says the Democrats want to impede resource development with regulations, lawsuits and by blocking legislation.

“What I’ll do as a U.S. senator is to follow on what I did as DNR commissioner, to work with people all the stakeholders to recognize we have a problem. Bipartisan support. And I’m very interested in being on the Environment and Public Works Committee to do exactly what we need to do: Really reform our regulatory and permitting system to unleash the energy potential of Alaska and America,” Sullivan said.

Sen. Begich insists the election is not about Obama. He says Alaska is closer to new logging opportunities with the Sealaska land bill, which he says is ready to go to the Senate floor. He says development of the National Petroleum Reserve is progressing, as is Arctic Ocean drilling. Begich says he’s been able to promote resource extraction with his committee assignments.

“When you elect someone like Dan Sullivan, here’s what we do lose. Seniority does matter. How many times before did you have Ted Stevens standing up here talking about seniority? It makes a difference in the U.S. Senate. And when you’re on the appropriations committee – Two seats from the same state, very rare,” Begich said.

At the end, debate organizers polled the audience on whether the forum would influence their vote. Most respondents said it would not.