Alaska’s congressional candidates descended on Kodiak last night for a debate that pitted candidates running for both the House and Senate against their opponents on a number of fisheries-related issues.
First to take the stage at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium were the candidates for U.S. Senate. Incumbent Senator Mark Begich squared off with Republican candidate Dan Sullivan, answering questions from a media panel, audience members and each other. Continue reading
After the retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis was sold for scrap last year and dismantled for scrap in Mexico, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced a bill in congress to ensure that American vessels are recycled in America. But the act goes further than that – it requires a portion of the proceeds from the sale of federally-owned ships to be distributed to maritime museums and other such organizations – something that is already required, but is not adhered to by the operators of the nation’s mothballed fleet.
Denise Krepp is a lobbyist in Washington D.C. who works on behalf of American ship recyclers. The STORIS Act would help her clients, but it would also benefit the thousand or more maritime heritage organizations in the United States.
“The money that ship recyclers give to the government, and to date, that’s about $70-million, will go to the maritime heritage organizations. Under law, a quarter of that money is supposed to be going to museums and light houses and others that promote maritime history. And unfortunately they haven’t seen any money since 1998.”
She said maritime heritage organizations run the gamut from small museums up to the organization that cares for the U.S.S. Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides.
“I’m talking about incredible museums. There’S one that’s up in seattle that’s involved with the gold rush. And not only did it work with the gold rush a hundred years ago, but it was the last vessel out of Wake Island, right after Pearl Harbor was attacked. So there’s some pretty fhistoric vesse3ls around the country. In Virginia the mariner’s museum has the Monitor, like the Monitor versus the Merimak. That’s our history.”
Krepp said the money that’s not getting to maritime heritage organizations could be put to good use:
“When you think about these maritime heritage organizations, everything from museums to the lighthouses to the tall ships, to other organizations that are affiliated with maritime heritage, it’s an immense group. And you know, not all of them are going to receive the full funding, but they should be given the opportunity to apply for the grant money. And then this grant money should be used, and will be used, to education people about our maritime history.”
The act is called “The Storis” Act for the Coast Guard Cutter Storis, which spent 50 years patrolling Alaska waters after serving in World War II, but the name is an acronym for ‘‘Ships to be Recycled in the States” Act.
The act also requires a report to Congress each year of what happened to vessels not worth preserving.
Coming up this week, Alaskans won’t get to hear the Republican candidate for Senate’s take on fisheries, West Coast fishermen may be required to scare birds off, and more tests for radiation from Fukushima, all coming up on the Alaska Fisheries Report. We had help from KSTK’s Katarina Sostaric in Wrangle and Northwest News Network’s Tom Banse in Olympia.
Alaska Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Dan Sullivan has told organizers that he is skipping the senatorial fisheries debate scheduled for October 1st here in Kodiak. It’s the second time Sullivan has dodged the fisheries debate – it had to be rescheduled from around ComFish time to October because he couldn’t make it then.
Fish Radio’s Laine Welch, who the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce contracts with to organize the event, reported in her Fish Factor column Monday that Sullivan was not coming. She wrote that Sullivan campaign manager Ben Sparks told debate organizers that his candidate does not have any prior commitments, but that he’s just too busy.
Democratic Senator Mark Begich said he was surprised and disappointed upon hearing of Sullivan’s exit, saying the fisheries debate is a “must-do” for statewide candidates.
During the rural debate produced by KYUK public radio in Bethel, Sullivan did not seem familiar with the federal fisheries questions asked. He has also refused to participate on a debate in Southeast on Native issues.
The fisheries debate will go on, said Trevor Brown, executive director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce. He said Begich will be here, and hopefully, other third party U.S. Senate candidates. He said he is also trying to line up U.S. House candidates Don Young and Forrest Dunbar.
At the age of 81, Alaska Congressman Don Young, is seeking a 22nd term in the United States House of Representatives and spent a number of days on Kodiak Island last week on a campaign swing.
Currently in his 42nd year of service, Young was first sent to Washington after winning a special election after his general election opponent disappeared on a plane flight.
“You know it’s an amazing thing. It just seems like yesterdaythat I was running in a special election against… well, actually the election against Nick Begich. October the 16th he went out and had an airplane wreck and we never did find him. And he beat me. And then of course I got elected to a special .. well, not of course – it was a close race … in the special election in March 7th of 73. And then got sworn into office March 14th and I’ve been there ever since.”
Nick Begich is the father of current U.S. Senator Mark Begich, who is seeking re-election this year:
“Oh I think Mark has done a good job. I think some of his votes were wrong. But again I’ve known him since he was 10 years old and watched his growth. Everybody has to make up his own decision how they’d vote and not vote.”
Though he is the longest-serving Republican in Congress, his critics say that several controversies have limited his effectiveness despite his tenure. Young says that seniority is still a rare and valuable thing.
“Of course my opponent says it doesn’t, but it does. It’s not just about committee chairmanships. I’ll be the first one to tell you the chances of my getting another chairmanship out of a full committee is very unlikely. But it is … I have communications with both sides of the aisle, of a lot of existing chairmen, a lot of former chairmen. And I have a network that nobody else can get. It takes time. And this is the way the political system works. Everybody, not everybody, they run against me, they say, ‘well he doesn’t have any clout any more.’ Well they don’t have any clout period.”
Young said he would step aside and endorse a like-minded young candidate if they would commit to staying in the U.S. House for 25-years, which is how long he says it takes to build up the kind of clout it takes to be effective.
Young faces three Republican challengers in the primary: John Cox, David Dohner and David Seaward. The winner will take on the victor of the Democratic primary, which is being contested by perennial candidate Frank Vondersaar (vonn D’zarr) and frontrunner Forrest Dunbar.
With elections at every level of government around the state coming up this fall, many trade organizations are preparing their endorsements for candidates that best reflect their views and goals. Julianne Curry, the executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska announced some of her organization’s endorsements this week.
“I just got off a three-hour long teleconference where we discussed our first round of endorsements. So the early endorsements prior to the additional endorsements we’ll make at our fall UFA board meeting, which will be coming up at the end of September.”
She said the board had decided on several races, and at least in the federal elections, is sticking with the tried and true incumbents.
“The United Fishermen of Alaska board of directors, those that can endorse political candidates, have put our support behind Senator Mark Begich for another term in the United States Senate. And we have also voted endorsed Don Young for another go-around at the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Curry said the UFA couldn’t reveal publicly who the board is recommending to its member organizations for state elections.
“According to APOC regulations, we’re only allowed to do the federal races. We can’t do press releases on anyone that we endorse for statewide office. So that makes that part kind of awkward.”
Most of Alaska’s 60 state legislators are facing re-election this year after a redistricting scheme was finally settled on after several rounds of legal challenges. And in addition to the U.S. House and Senate, there is the statewide election for governor and lieutenant governor. The Alaska primary is in August, with the General Election in November.