In first townhall in Interior Alaska, crowd engages with Sullivan

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, in his Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Senator Dan Sullivan said he’s looking forward to being briefed on the firing of FBI Chief James Comey this week. Sullivan said the Assistant Attorney General will talk with the entire Senate. Sullivan’s remarks were made at his first Town Hall meeting in interior Alaska Friday.

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Before Friday’s Town Hall meeting in North Pole began, organizers urged respectful dialogue rather than a shouting match. And for the most part the audience complied. But many carried green and red placards and flashed them at certain statements by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan.

Alaska’s junior senator opened with some broad remarks about his priorities, the top being the nation’s and state’s economy. He highlighted military spending that will benefit Alaska. He also addressed the firing of FBI chief James Comey.

“The timing of the president’s firing raises questions that he and his team are going to need to answer,” Sullivan said.

But far and away the dominant subject Friday night was the proposed gutting and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.  Sullivan’s negative opinion on Obamacare drew a sea of red cards and the strongest vocal response by the audience.

“I actually think we’re a state that’s probably been hurt by the Affordable Care Act worse than any other state,” Sullivan said to both applause and boos.

Sullivan defended his statement by pointing to Alaska’s high insurance premiums and the one remaining provider in the state. Audience questions were drawn at random, and small business owner and musician Robin Dale Ford used her time to challenge Sulllivan on health care. She said lawmakers seem to be working for insurance companies rather than the average citizen. She said before Obama Care she couldn’t afford insurance and her situation represented the face of American healthcare.

“And I feel that I’ve added to my community, to my state,” Ford said. “And I feel that my tax dollars go to pay for you and your family’s great care. Why am I not worthy?”

While Sullivan side-stepped the political clout of big pharmaceuticals and insurance companies, Sullivan said he was no fan of big pharma.

The other topic that stirred the audience was Sullivan’s explanation for supporting Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

“She has a passion for education…” Sullivan said as the crowd laughed in disagreement.

The senator urged the audience to study DeVos resume.

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