GOP Senate candidates spar in televised forum

ANCHORAGE — The three main Republican candidates for U.S. Senate all are anti-abortion, believe government surveillance goes too far and are not in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller, former Attorney General Dan Sullivan and current Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell answered questions posed by viewers Friday night during a televised forum sponsored by Anchorage television station KTUU and the Alaska Press Club.

The primary election will be held Aug. 19, when GOP voters will select a candidate to face the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Republicans see retaking the Alaska seat as key to their efforts to turn the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

When asked if they would support a bill that would recognize that life begins at conception, Miller said protecting life is his top priority, and called the bill a “phenomenal piece of legislation.

“It’s my commitment that if elected as your senator, that would be one of the first things I do when I get to D.C. is co-sponsor that bill,” he said.

Sullivan said he was born and raised a Catholic, is anti-abortion, and as a parent, said he was a blessed man to see the ultrasounds of his three daughters and watch them grow into the teenagers they are today.

“You understand the sanctity of life, and I’m very committed to that,” he said.

However, he said he hasn’t read the bill, and said he feels it’s important to read a bill before he opined on it.

“I don’t think life is a men’s issue or a women’s issue, I think it’s an issue for all of us,” Treadwell said. He also hasn’t read the bill, but said it brings up important issues.

“The issue of personhood is probably the next big debate in this country. And when does personhood being? And I believe if we’re going to defend the rights of an unborn child, say from assault when a mother, a pregnant mother is assaulted, I think we have to understand personhood begins at conception,” he said.

As far as surveillance, all three agreed that the federal government goes too far in collecting information.

Treadwell said he doesn’t believe in secret warrants, and Americans shouldn’t have to give up their freedom to defend the country from terrorist threats.

Treadwell added that government snooping into phone records and emails doesn’t make sense.

“The post office can’t figure out whether to deliver mail on Saturdays, but they somehow can take a picture of your mail coming and going, and we have to call a halt to this,” he said.

Miller called the surveillance “atrocious. This is precisely opposite what our founders intended for our government to do.”

Sullivan said the key issue is that the government needs to be focusing more on the “bad guys and less on the good guys. We’re the good guys, the people living in America.”

During the November election, residents will vote whether to make Alaska the third state in the union to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Sullivan said as a father of three, and a former attorney general, he’s not in favor of an initiative that would allow young children an opportunity to engage in the use of drugs.

Miller, a father of eight and a former state magistrate, said he wouldn’t permit drug use of children and certainly would try to prevent everyone in the state from going down that path.

But he noted the real issue is with the federal government, and he called the national war on drugs unconstitutional.

“The feds shouldn’t be involved anywhere near drugs except for at the borders. It is a state issue,” he said.

Treadwell, as lieutenant governor, oversees elections in Alaska. He said he’s officially neutral on the marijuana question, but noted that in the past he has not been supportive of legalized marijuana.