Sen. Dan Sullivan drew on a well of good will and optimism before a crowd of 350 at the Alaska Republican Party’s State Convention in Anchorage on Saturday, where he was the keynote speaker along with Congressman Don Young.
Sullivan’s message reflected the mood of the delegates who greeted him warmly at the Anchorage Hilton ballroom: He spoke of optimism, and opportunity, which has been a running theme during his travels across Alaska lately.
A LOT IS GOING RIGHT
Alaska’s senator, now in his fourth year, pointed out that with the Trump Administration in the White House, and with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, there has been a positive shift in the fortunes of the 49th state.
Alaskans have every reason to be optimistic, and have already been beneficiaries of the sea change that took place in 2016, he said.
Where the Obama Administration did everything in its powers to lock up Alaska’s economy, the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress have undone much of the damage, including rolling back an 11th hour executive order that put all fish and wildlife management in the refuges of Alaska under federal control. Using the Congressional Review Act, the Alaska delegation was able to muster the 51 votes needed to rescind that order.
He spoke about how the military readiness is being restored after the Department of Defense lost 25 percent of its budget between 2010 and 2016 under the Obama Administration.
“You saw how we had a dramatic decline in readiness in terms of our military forces. Alaska is destined to play a critical role in the front line of freedom,” he said.
OPENING THE 1002 AREA DUE TO SCRAPPY ALASKANS
Sullivan brought several rounds of applause, mentioning victories such as the progress made o the King Cove Road and opening the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
“The national media hated this issue and they did not want us to get it done,” he said. “They said it was all hidden. It wasn’t hidden. There were a lot of votes, 12 total ANWR votes,” Sullivan said.
“There was also this false narrative that this was Big Energy, Big Oil spending all this money to get ANWR open. Big Energy, Big Oil didn’t really lay a finger on it. The big money was the radical extreme interest groups that were spending millions to try to stop us.
“It was grassroots Alaskans, scrappy Alaskans, three members of the congressional delegation, and all of you….That was it! The millions, the media, and even the government of Canada — our friends — actively lobbying members of Congress and the Senate to not open ANWR. So don’t believe the narrative.”
Sullivan also recalled Washington Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell’s numerous speeches on ANWR that “drip with this attitude that ‘Alaska — you don’t know what’s good for you and for your future and your economy.’ So when I heard that during the battle we had two Democrats in our state hosting a fundraiser for her — in our state — I didn’t think charitable thoughts.”
REXFORD — AN ALASKAN WHO MADE AN UNFORGETTABLE IMPRESSION
Sullivan recalled the story of Matthew Rexford of Kaktovik, who came to Washington, D.C. to testify on opening ANWR. He spoke in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Natural Resources Committee.
“He is a strong young Alaska Native man. It was the first time he had been in front of Congress. I’m sure it was very intimidating. But Matthew told the senators in front of him, both Republican and Democrat, that he and his people refused to be ‘conservation refugees.’
“He said, “We do not approve of efforts to turn our homeland in to one giant national park, which literally guarantees us a fate with no economy, no jobs, and no hope.
“Matthew looked those Senators in the eye and told them because of responsible oil and gas development, his village and villages across the area were able to claw their way out of third-world conditions.
“He talked about how they have the right to continue to use their resources, on their lands, to create jobs, for schools, for hospitals, for the things that most Americans have in abundance and take for granted.”
Sullivan also noted how many Alaskans are now in positions of influence in Washington, singling out Joe Balash, who is now Assistant Secretary of Interior.
Just the mention of Balash’s name always gets a round of applause, Sullivan noted, and Saturday’s naming of him was no different, as man people know Balash as the former commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources in the Parnell Administration and then Sen. Sullivan’s first chief of staff.
Balash now reports to Sec. Ryan Zinke at Interior and its well known in political circles that his rise is a particular irritant to Gov. Bill Walker, as Balash is in charge of the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other areas that impact Alaska.
Sullivan ended his remarks with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, about the importance of being involved in the worthy struggle to make the world a better place:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man [or woman] who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”