ANCHORAGE — Two Republicans running for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich criticized the Democratic incumbent at a candidates forum, saying he was wrong to oppose the proposed Pebble mine.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan attended the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum Monday.
Begich recently came out against the proposed Pebble mine, based on an Environmental Protection Agency study. Begich said the mine would pose a threat to Bristol Bay salmon.
The candidates said the EPA should back off and let backers of the mine seek their development permits.
“We should have a senator who is telling the EPA that they can’t do that,” Sullivan said. “And we don’t.”
“I think Mark Begich made a huge mistake,” Treadwell told a crowd at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. “Don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes.”
Another GOP candidate, Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller, did not attend the event, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said the campaign received late notice of the forum.
Chamber President Andrew Halcro, however, said he sent an email through Miller’s political website three weeks ago when he also contacted the other candidates. He also left a detailed message for Miller’s campaign treasurer and said he never heard back until last week.
“I would have sold an extra 50 seats if Joe Miller would have been here,” Halcro said after the event.
Halcro said the chamber is nonpartisan. He said it will not be endorsing any candidates.
Among issues raised at the forum were the candidates’ residencies in Alaska.
Treadwell has been in the state for 40 years, and Sullivan has spent a far shorter time in Alaska. It’s a theme 57-year-old Treadwell has raised in the past and raised again on Monday. He said he has been working on state issues much of his adult life.
“I’ve had the chance to work with the chamber’s military committee, on a very substantive policy issue,” Treadwell said, glancing at his opponent. “Dan, this is before you were here.”
Sullivan, 49, noted that he and his wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, were married in Fairbanks almost two decades ago. They moved to Alaska in 1997.
Sullivan left the state in 2002 for political and military posts. He returned in 2009 to become attorney general for then-Gov. Sarah Palin.
“I became part of a wonderful, interior Alaska family,” Sullivan said, adding that his in-laws are politically prominent. “Some of you may know Bud and Mary Jane Fate in Fairbanks.”