IN THE FINAL month of his reelection campaign, Alaska’s one-term Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan is fighting to recover from a scandal that ties him more closely to a controversial mining project opposed by the majority of voters in his state.
Sullivan’s political crisis centers around Pebble Mine — a yearslong contested project that would bring large-scale mining to the Bristol Bay watershed, a mineral-rich region that supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, and home to more than two dozen federally recognized tribal governments. The senator has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists, executives, and employees involved with the project, according to a recent investigation by journalists Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria.
Those contributions could prove to be a political liability in a Senate race being prioritized by national Democrats as they seek to retake the upper chamber. Democratic challenger Al Gross has been funding new radio, TV, and digital ads blasting Sullivan for his ties to Pebble Mine, prompted by a recent investigation that showed how mining executives envision the reach of the project growing larger than had been publicly stated. Sullivan and Gross are locked in a tight race, according to a late September poll, conducted by a Super PAC aligned with Gross. If elected, Gross — who is registered as nonpartisan — would caucus with Democrats, like Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. Gross is backed by national groups including Indivisible, the DSCC, and anti-Trump conservative group the Lincoln Project.