Two of the three major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Begich debated in Anchorage on Wednesday night, with an empty chair for the third candidate, frontrunner Dan Sullivan, who spent the evening in Eagle River knocking on doors.
The "Debate for the State" was hosted by Alaska Public Media and broadcast on 26 television and radio stations across the state. Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell participated in a conversation with three hosts on topics ranging from climate change to Social Security to health care reform.
Treadwell referred to Sullivan's absence during the debate, then continued his criticism in an interview as he left the studio, saying Sullivan had missed an opportunity to get his message out to rural voters, who are being targeted by Begich's campaign.
"We were just piped out to dozens and dozens of Bush communities, and Dan wasn't there. How do we expect to win in November?" Treadwell said. "It's a travesty."
A spokesman for Sullivan declined to respond to Treadwell's comments but said Sullivan had already appeared at 12 debates and forums since January, including events on Sunday and Monday.
Sullivan is scheduled to appear at another debate Thursday hosted by television station KTUU, said the spokesman, Mike Anderson.
"Dan recognizes the importance of reaching out to Alaskans in person with his message of less government and more freedom," Anderson said in an emailed statement. "Tonight, with less than a week left before the primary, he will be knocking on doors and speaking directly with voters."