Tags: | Alaska | energy | politics

Sagging Energy Economy Changes Alaska's Political Landscape

By    |   Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:20 PM

As the oil and natural gas boom slows in Alaska, the political tables there are also turning, as Democrats see stronger opportunities in a state long controlled by Republicans, the New York Times reports.

While extracting energy's bounty was once a thriving business in the northernmost state, now its economic picture is shifting as tax revenues fall off and the job market dives, the Times noted.

Such changing economic fortunes are reflected in a tight Senate race there that pits incumbent Democrat Mark Begich, a former Anchorage mayor, against Republican Dan Sullivan, the state's natural resources commissioner and a former Alaska attorney general.

Begich flexed the muscle of his own new order after defeating the late Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens, who had served for 40 years before his 2008 loss. But Begich now must fight hard to keep his seat as the financial picture for Alaska seems dim.

While Begich argues that his relationships forged in Washington will only help Alaska, Sullivan argues that he is the better steward of its resources who will, according to the Times, "protect the next wave of resource development in oil, gas or minerals from meddlesome regulators, the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in the Senate" that he says Begich is beholden to.

As Alaska has been solidly a red state for decades, confusion reigns over its political future and best course, residents noted, as the election fight continued with control of the Senate at stake. Stevens, noted one unemployed truck driver and construction worker to the Times, "knew how to take care of us." But finding a successor to that mantle was proving harder.

Still Begich said he was stepping up in a bipartisan spirit to make sure Alaskan opportunities were maximized.

“I’m going to work with whoever can help Alaska — I don’t care who they are, where they come from, who their party is,” Begich told the Times, noting the efforts from his predecessor to help Alaska but adding that voters "also recognize where we are today."

But Sullivan says solutions for his state are not going to come from Washington — "an obstructionist federal bureaucracy" led by Democrats like Harry Reid and President Barack Obama, the Times noted.

"The country clearly is going in the wrong direction," Sullivan told the Times. "The federal government does not try to look at ways to partner with us, but they’re trying to put more obstacles and delays in terms of opportunity — so that is an anxiety."

Voters thus far seem to be responding to Sullivan's version of feared federal interlope. According to the latest CNN/ORC International poll, Sullivan is leading Begich by six points as the senator's sagging favorability ratings continue to hurt him.

Begich's perception problems with voters were described by The Washington Post as "grim," as 52 percent viewed him unfavorably. Begich, however, was connecting with independent voters in the state, outpacing Sullivan 50 to 43, according to the Post, which noted independents there now outnumber Democrats.

A Real Clear Politics polling average from Sept. 18 to Oct. 7, had Sullivan ahead by 4.8 points.

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As the oil and natural gas boom slows in Alaska, the political tables there are also turning, as Democrats see stronger opportunities in a state long controlled by Republicans, the New York Times reports.
Alaska, energy, politics
515
2014-20-09
Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:20 PM
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