11/3/14 - Senatorial candidates make final push; AFN endorses Begich, Walker, Mallott
Major candidates for the U .S. Senate in Alaska are making one final push to rally voters. Incumbent Senator Democrat Mark Begich, and challenger Dan Sullivan held rallies. Sullivan appeared at a rally with Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and Tea Party favorite. Cruz blasted the status quo in Washington, DC., and advocated the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. Begich called for more cooperation and an end to bipartisan politics.
Alaska Federation of Natives endorses Begich, Walker, Mallott
Friday the Alaska Federation of Natives held a press conference to explain the thinking of the convention delegates who voted earlier in the month to endorse candidates in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. AFN has endorsed only a few candidates since it was founded in 1966. It endorsed former Gov. Tony Knowles more than two decades ago, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her write-in campaign in 2010. AFN President Julie Kitka said delegates voted as representatives of 164 tribes, 146 village corporations, 12 regional corporations and 12 regional nonprofits.
AFN board member April Ferguson, senior vice president and general counsel for the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, said AFN endorsed Sen. Mark Begich because of his support for subsistence, voting rights, and his position in the Senate.
"Importantly for all of us as citizens of the state of Alaska," says Ferguson, "Sen. Begich currently sits on the Appropriations Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee. Alaska has the very unique distinction of having two senators on the Appropriations committee and as a state we can't afford to lose his influence on either committee."
She went on to say Begich’s in-depth knowledge of and advocacy for fisheries is also important.
AFN also endorsed the Bill Walker and Byron Mallott ticket for Governor and Lt. Governor.
At the AFN Convention, incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell said he’s doubled the number of Village Public Safety Officer positions since 2007, and described his work to fund school and infrastructure projects in rural Alaska.
But AFN delegates praised Walker’s stance on subsistence, and tribal sovereignty. Ferguson says Walker’s pledge to talk, not litigate issues stands in stark contrast to Parnell’s approach.
"Do not underestimate what subsistence means to the Native community," says Ferguson. "It underlies everything. And to have the state pouring a half million dollars repeatedly year after year, and litigating the very thing that is the very fabric of our culture and that is stated in every single village and at AFN over and over again."
Parnell had also described to the AFN audience his work to develop agreements with tribes to divert certain alcohol and drug related misdemeanors to tribal courts. AFN President Julie Kitka says that has to be taken in the context of the opposition the Parnell administration has shown on a wide range of issues affecting Alaska Natives.
"I think that you'd have to look, in regard to the tribal issues and litigation, to see the state's full range of opposition on any Congressional efforts," says Kitka. "The safe families and communities, the efforts that AFN has had to get alcohol control initiatives. I mean there is many efforts when the state has tried block things on the Congressional level over their conflicts with tribes. It isn't enough to have memoranda of agreement or trying to work together. There really is the whole gamut."
Sen. Begich and candidate Bill Walker said they were honored by the endor
sements. Lt. Gov. candidate Byron Mallott says when he thinks back to when, as a young man of 23, he helped found AFN, and later served as its co-chairman, AFN’s endorsement means even that much more.
"It's among the proudest moments of my life," says Mallott. "In order to get here I've had to carry the fire of my people. I've also had to reach out and engage with and embrace all Alaskans, and come to believe that we have to create one Alaska in order for all of us to prosper."
Before the endorsement resolutions were developed, AFN asked candidates to fill out extensive questionnaires. Candidates’ responses, and information about Alaska Native voting rights, were distributed to delegates to the convention in a AFN Voting Guide. It’s available on line at the Alaska Federation of Natives website.