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AK Dems Say Sullivan Inconsistent on Subsistence Rights

Democrats have raised concern about GOP Senate candidate’s Dan Sullivan’s stance on subsistence rights, particularly as it relates to his actions as Attorney General.  KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.

The Alaska Democratic Party says that former Attorney General and Republican Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan is inconsistent in his stance on subsistence fishing rights.  In particular, they focus on his reopening of the Katie John case.  Katie John was an Athabascan elder wanting to subsistence fish from the Copper River.  However, the area was state land, which, unlike its federal counterpart, doesn’t give natives preferential fishing rights.  As a result, the state filed a lawsuit. The case went on for over 20 years, with the state backing off during the Knowles administration.  However, Alaska Democratic Party spokesman Zach fields says Sullivan reopened the case against her while attorney general. 

“Sullivan has talked about the virtues of fish camp, yet he filed the anti-subsistence lawsuit against the elder Katie John, so how can he say he respects subsistence when he filed the state’s most notorious lawsuit against an Alaska Native elder.” '

Katie John died in 2013, but there was still litigation until March of this year.  Fields says Sullivan has distanced himself from his reopening of the case while on the campaign trail.  Instead, like in the August 10th KTVA debate, he framed his efforts as a fight against federal intrusion.

“But as you know there’s been many, many iterations of the Katie John subsistence issue that’s been going back for decades. But what I’ve been focused on and what I was very much focused on as Attorney General was looking at where the federal government- which it did under the Obama administration when I became Attorney General in 2009- the onslaught and overreach of this administration in almost every aspect of Alaskans’ lives was something I thought we needed to fight…”

When pressed for a position on Katie John, Sullivan was evasive.

“As Alaska’s Attorney General, fighting for our control of waterways over the federal government’s control I think is something that is very important from the state’s perspective. With regard to subsistence more broadly my view has been very much we need to work together- all Alaskans- for a sustainable solution.”

Fields says this public support for subsistence rights doesn’t match up with his actions in the Katie John case, and raises concern.

“For folks who rely on subsistence, it should raise real questions. What is he actually going to do and is he actually going to maintain the position of going against subsistence, which is what he did when he was attorney general?”

Sullivan is the Republican candidate for US Senate, having beaten Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller in the recent primary election.  He will face Democrat Mark Begich in November.