One of Alaska's most prominent Native corporations is weighing in early to endorse Republican primary candidate Dan Sullivan in the hotly contested race for a U.S. Senate seat.
The decision means Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the state's largest Alaskan-owned company, is not endorsing Democratic incumbent Mark Begich or other prominent Republican opponents who could still beat Sullivan in the Aug. 19 primary.
With that primary vote several weeks away, Sullivan's top challengers are Joe Miller, winner of the last Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Alaska, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.
Numerous endorsements are yet to come, and it's possible many other Alaska Native corporations representing shareholders in other regions throughout the state will make a different choice.
ASRC represents Alaska Native shareholders with roots in North Slope communities, an important constituency for Begich: Rural and Alaska Native residents have attracted much of his attention. Begich has fought for such things as fixing overdue federal payments to Native health corporations, protecting bypass mail and retaining benefits enjoyed by Native corporations trying to win federal contracts.
"Mark Begich has fought for and listened to all of the tribes, corporations and residents of Alaska's North Slope," said a response from Susanne Fleek-Green, Begich's campaign manager. "As a senator he will continue to work on behalf of the North Slope and all Alaska Natives by promoting development of Alaska's vast resources while respecting sustainable practices and listening to the needs of subsistence users."
ASRC said in a release the board took the "unique" step of endorsing a candidate after a meeting in Barrow.
"Sullivan's military experience, responsible energy development record, his history of working with the North Slope on issues ranging from justice to energy, diplomacy at the U.S. State Department, his stance against domestic violence, the importance he personally places on education and his commitment to Alaska make him a strong and favorable candidate for U.S. Senate," the statement said.
Begich recently received an early endorsement from the United Fishermen of Alaska, billing itself as the largest statewide commercial fishing industry trade association.
"They have previously endorsed Stevens and Murkowski. I've got no record of them endorsing a Democrat before," said Begich spokesman Max Croes.
UFA said: "Senator Begich's record of service to the commercial fishing industry and fishing dependent coastal communities in Alaska provides more than enough justification to send him back for a second term."
Another recent endorsement: The Wasilla-based Conservative Patriots Group, which works to elect conservatives, said its members voted to endorse Joe Miller by a 2-to-1 ratio over Mead Treadwell. Dan Sullivan finished a distant third in that vote, getting 12 percent.
Also, the Treadwell campaign noted that it has received endorsements from supporters such as former House speaker Gail Phillips, former Senate president Drue Pearce, former Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill and banker Ed Rasmuson, chairman of the Rasmuson Foundation. Treadwell also has support from many ASRC shareholders, an official with the campaign said.