Less than a week after one of his primary opponents, Joe Miller, spoke in Homer for Father’s Day, last Thursday Dan Sullivan visited town for two public meetings and some boots-on-the ground campaigning. Sullivan, 49, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, is running against Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate.
While Sullivan has to defeat Miller and Treadwell to take on Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in the general election, in his campaign speech he spoke as if it was a mere formality to defeat them. He hardly mentioned Miller or Treadwell at all, but spoke against Begich frequently.
“I have a record as a uniter, a doer,” Sullivan said. “What really matters is getting this seat back.”
Begich and the Alaska Democratic Party have been acting as if Sullivan is the guy to beat. The Democratic Party, for example, sent out a press release noting that Sullivan was going to visit Homer, “the epicenter of opposition to HB (House Bill) 77,” the controversial Department of Natural Resources permitting bill.
“Clearly, Mark Begich has decided who he doesn’t want to face in the fall, and it’s not Joe Miller and not Mead Treadwell,” Sullivan said.
About 25 people showed up at a talk Thursday at the Kachemak Community Center to hear and meet Sullivan.
Sullivan also spoke earlier at the Kachemak Board of Realtors meeting at the Homer Elks Lodge, had lunch with the Red Hat Society, a Homer women’s social group, walked the Homer Harbor boardwalk and met with customers at Redden Marine.
“This is for me personally the best part of campaigning,” Sullivan said of meeting Alaskans.
A Marine with 20 years experience in both active and reserve duty as an infantry and reconnaissance officer, including a deployment last summer to Afghanistan, Sullivan joked about a reserve duty he attended last weekend.
“My wife says you can always tell I’m going out to training. You’re looking at the Marine high-and-tight haircut,” Sullivan said. “Every day in the Marine Corps is a bad hair day.”
Sullivan also has civilian experience in Alaska and Washington, D.C. Born in Ohio, he has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a law degree from Georgetown University. In Fairbanks, he clerked for a federal judge and in Anchorage practiced law.
In D.C., Sullivan was a White House fellow under President George W. Bush and U.S. assistant secretary of state on economic, energy, finance, and sanctions and terrorist finance with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
He returned to Alaska in 2009 when Gov. Sarah Palin appointed him attorney general. He also was Gov. Sean Parnell’s commissioner of Natural Resources.
Begich has criticized Sullivan for being absent from Alaska from 2002 to 2009. For part of that time Sullivan was deployed on active duty in the Marines, but also in D.C.
“I did leave the state for a time, but I left the state to serve my country,” Sullivan said.
He came to Alaska after meeting a former Sen. Ted Stevens staff member, Julie Fate, and falling in love after a blind date. They married in 1994 and now have three teenage daughters, Laurel, Isabella and Meghan. Sullivan said he’s running for senator because he thinks the country has been going in the wrong direction for the last few years.
“Less government, more freedom,” is the answer, he said. “We have the way to turn that around.”
Begich’s seat is vulnerable and could mean the difference between a Republican majority in the Senate.
“We have the opportunity to defeat Mark Begich,” Sullivan said. “It’s a hugely important election.”
Speaking of his daughters, Sullivan said he’s optimistic about the future and that there is an opportunity to leave them a better America.
“We’re running a campaign based on optimism, based on the core conviction that the best days are ahead of us with small government,” he said.
But there’s an obstacle to that, Sullivan said.
“If you’re honest and look, we’re not leaving our country with a better America,” he said. “You know who: the Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Mark Begich agenda.”
Holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, Sullivan said, “It’s this great document that’s being ignored, the U.S. Constitution, where the president is ignoring the law and changing the law where he sees fit.”
On Proposition 1, to overturn Senate Bill 21, the oil gas tax bill, Sullivan said he’s voting no. He also said that while at DNR he helped craft the new tax regime. Sullivan said that below $40 a barrel, the state gets more in taxes. Under the former law, under what’s called “progressivity,” the tax rate went up as oil prices went up. SB 21 got rid of progressivity.
“That provided incentive for the companies to invest more at the higher prices,” Sullivan said. “Not everyone agreed. We thought it was fair.”
Sullivan also defended House Bill 77, the controversial bill to change water and land use permitting. At hearings held last December in Homer and Soldotna by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, only one person spoke in favor of the bill. While he was DNR commissioner, Sullivan worked on HB 77.
“We thought this was strangling our own economy,” he said of permitting. “We put together a strategy to make our system more certain, more timely.”
In the recent Alaska Legislature, HB 77 failed.
“It was a compromise bill, a few parts of which did not make it, and were not acceptable to the Legislature,” Sullivan said. “We weren’t trying to cut out the public involvement. We were trying to streamline the process.”
Sullivan also criticized the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. He cited his work as attorney general in fighting against the act when it was challenged unsuccessfully in the U.S. Supreme Court. Sullivan said he read the act, but didn’t think Begich or Obama did.
“If they had read it, they wouldn’t have made the promise that you can keep your health care, the doctor you want,” he said.
Barnabas Firth, the Anchor Point man who introduced Joe Miller at his Homer talk, said he was concerned about the people like Karl Rove who support Sullivan.
“Are you going to be a man of the people?” Firth asked him.
“I think what the Tea Party has been doing in Alaska and the country is focusing on less government, more freedom, fighting government overreach,” Sullivan said.
If you want a candidate who has a record of doing that, then Sullivan is your man, he said. Don’t look at a candidate’s speeches. Look at his record.
“There’s not a candidate in this race who’s got a record close to mine,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, I would love your vote and your support. … We’re going to need a fighter to beat Mark Begich. I have that record. I’ve got that spirit. I do. That’s why I want to be U.S. senator.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.