Sullivan Supports State Minimum Wage Boost He Once Opposed

In a reversal, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan says he supports a ballot measure that would  increase the state minimum wage.

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In a pre-Primary debate in Fairbanks, Sullivan and then-candidate Joe Miller both said they oppose Ballot Measure 3, which would increase the state’s minimum wage by $2 over two years.

But Sullivan, in a story published online Monday by the Wall Street Journal, said he now supports the ballot measure.

“Because it is a state-driven initiative, I do support the motion to place a minimum wage question directly to the people of Alaska, and I personally intend to vote for it,” Sullivan said in a written statement.

He says he still opposes a national minimum wage increase, saying Alaskans know best how to strengthen their economy.

The campaign of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Begich,  promptly issued a press release noting Sullivan’s change of position. Begich supports both Alaska’s Ballot Measure 3 as well as a bill in Congress to boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

The Sullivan campaign told the Journal the candidate changed his mind after he had a chance to read the initiative.

Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami accuses Sullivan of flip-flopping.

“Dan Sullivan appears to be able to read polls and knows that opposition to the wage increase might have helped him in a closed primary, but it hurts his appeal to general election voters,” the labor leader said in a press release.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, since 2002, every ballot measure to increase a state’s minimum wage has passed, most by wide margins. The paper also reports that such measures typically increase voter turnout by 1 percent and there’s no evidence the increase helps Democrats, as commonly believed.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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