Amid questions of Alaska bona fides, Sullivan launches Senate campaign

Lisa Demer
Erik Hill

With his wife, three daughters and in-laws by his side, dressed in jeans and his military-issue lace-up boots, former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan told a small crowd of supporters Tuesday that he loves his state and is running for U.S. Senate to push for development of Alaska's resources, fight against "federal overreach" and protect families and individual rights.

After his speech, Sullivan worked the crowd and brushed off questions from reporters about the federal government shutdown and his Alaska credentials, saying there would be time to talk about that later. Even before he announced his entry into what's now a three-way Republican primary, he faced questions, including from Democrats, over his Alaska bona fides.

Sullivan has an extensive resume. Though friends describe him as a man with humility, his campaign on Tuesday handed out a 12 1/2 page backgrounder titled "Getting Big Things Done for Alaska."

He's a 20-year Marine Corps officer. He served briefly as attorney general. He was an assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. But he faces a tough primary, with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller already in the race to unseat Democrat Sen. Mark Begich.

At Tuesday's event in the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center, Sullivan was introduced by a former NATO commander, retired Gen. Joe Ralston, a close friend of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Begich, who Republicans nationally are trying to knock off, ousted Stevens in the 2008 election just after Stevens was convicted of corruption in a flawed trial.

Ralston said Sullivan "has actually accomplished important things for Alaska, not just giving speeches about it." That came through as a dig at Treadwell, who has traveled around the country and to other nations giving talks on Alaska, its resources and the Arctic.

With residency already an issue, Ralston described Sullivan as "someone with deep Alaska roots. He's part of a great Alaska family who goes back countless generations in this state and whom I'm proud to call close friends."

Sullivan's wife is Julie Fate Sullivan, and his in-laws are Hugh Fate, a former Alaska state representative, and Mary Jane Fate, an Athabascan leader whose credentials include serving as the first woman co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, as a University of Alaska regent and on the corporate board of Alaska Airlines.

But Sullivan himself is originally from the Cleveland area.

He and his wife, and their oldest child, then an infant, first moved to Alaska in 1997. The other two girls were born here before they left in 2002.

The family returned in 2009, when then-Gov. Sarah Palin appointed him attorney general. Gov. Sean Parnell later switched him to natural resources commissioner.

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