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Sen. Begich Visits Dillingham

Luke Brummer

Alaska’s junior Senator was in Dillingham this weekend as part of his bid for reelection this fall.  KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.

US Democratic Senator Mark Begich stopped in Dillingham Sunday as part of a chili cook-off event.  Around 50 supporters gathered at the Sifsof building to pick their favorite concoction, as well as speak with him about their concerns.  After picking his favorite among the 5 soups, Begich addressed the crowd about various issues and urged them to vote in the November election.  In an on-site interview with KDLG, Begich said a major goal was to distinguish himself from his Republican opponent, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan.

“I expect that as we move forward, we’ll continue to talk about my record and what I’ve done, but also his record and the contrast that occurs.”

One of these contrasts is the proposed Pebble Mine, which would excavate copper and gold west of Nondalton, but which locals worry could leak waste and damage the local salmon population.  Begich said like Sullivan, he supports resource development, but doesn’t think this is an appropriate project.

“I just believe the mine was the wrong mine, wrong place, and it would impact our fisheries not only this generation, but multiple generations, and this community depends on fisheries not only for economic opportunity, but for long term health and those that are subsistence fishermen and hunters out here. He and I are different on this. I support mines across the state: Donlan Creek and Niblack and Bokan and Green’s Creek and Fort Knox and others, but this one, just the wrong mine and wrong place.”

Begich said another difference between him and Sullivan is his support for Alaska Native rights.  He said as Attorney General, Sullivan reopened the subsistence lawsuit against Athabascan elder Katie John.   By contrast, Begich says he supports native subsistence rights, as well as improving tribal justice systems, with his introduction of the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act to the Senate.

“For issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, substance abuse, they would be empowered, the tribes, to create a criminal justice system, through a civil section, to go after people that are violators. The state opposes this. They believe their system is better and will work. The fact is 65% of people are re-offending in the state system. Alaskan Native people are in the jails as twice as many as their population would even account for, so it’s not working for rural Alaska and what I’ve suggested is a different way, a better system empowering our communities to deal with their justice in a way that works for their community. The state is incapable of having, in my view, a resolution that makes these communities safer.”

Ultimately, Begich says the race will be close, and it will come down to getting out the vote as much as possible.  

“At the end of the day, what’s very important, and the message I was sending to my supporters out here, we need every vote, every person to turn out. We need to make sure there are many people who aren’t registered to vote, to make sure that they get registered before the first of October, get out, get registered, and then get to the polls.”

In addition to the chili cook-off, Begich also visited the Dillingham Senior Center to discuss salmon.  He will compete against Sullivan in the general election on November 4th.