How the Catholic vote could sway Alaska's crucial Senate race

How the Catholic vote could sway Alaska's crucial Senate race

Democrat Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska (left) and Republican candidate Dan Sullivan (right).
Democrat Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska (left) and Republican candidate Dan Sullivan (right).

.- As two candidates, both of them Catholic, vie for a U.S. Senate seat in Alaska, Church leaders are trying to inform the electorate of where they stand on crucial moral issues.  

“The CatholicVote.org Research Team has pored through the public statements and positions of Dan Sullivan and Mark Begich on issues which matter to Catholics,” CatholicVote said of the Alaska Senate race.

Sullivan is the Republican candidate, while Begich is the Democratic incumbent.

The voter guide published on the CatholicVote website examined the two candidates on the issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, religious liberty, health care, and education.

Another voter questionnaire published by the Catholic Anchor, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, asked all seven candidates in the race about the death penalty, immigration, and refugee aid, in addition to abortion and religious liberty.

And the Knights of Columbus state council issued a statement on their website calling all Catholics to vote pro-life.

“It is our duty and obligation to be good citizens and vote, but more importantly it is our obligations to our God and our Brothers and Sisters to vote for those running for office who uphold the dignity and defense of Life from Conception to Natural Death,” the statement read. “Those who are denied Life at the beginning will never have the opportunity to benefit from whatever the Politicians have to offer.”

With close to a dozen races that are too close to call and control of the Senate at stake, just one state could decide which party has a majority. In a tight race such as Alaska’s, where Sullivan holds a lead in multiple polls just beyond the margin for error, the Catholic vote could thus decide not only the state, but the U.S. Senate.

The Catholic vote made up 25 percent of the Alaska electorate, according to CNN’s exit polls from the 2012 presidential election. Catholics narrowly went for the Democrat President Obama, 50-48.

Neither Begich nor Sullivan responded to the Catholic Anchor’s questionnaire, so the paper compiled information from the candidates’ websites, previous statements, and other questionnaires to best reveal the candidates’ stances.

Concerning abortion, Sullivan has stated on his campaign website that he was “born and raised a Roman Catholic” and “believes in the sanctity of life.” He added that “life begins at conception and we must fight to protect the lives of the unborn.” According to an Alaska Family Action voter guide, he believes that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.

According to the same guide, he supports pro-life legislation like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would prohibit most late-term abortions when the baby is 20 weeks or older. He also supports the “No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act” which would extend Hyde Amendment prohibitions against federal funding of abortions to all federal spending.

For his part, Begich touted on his campaign website that he has “consistently received top marks from Planned Parenthood and NARAL for my commitment to a women’s right to choose, access to birth control and ending discrimination by health insurance companies.”

He emphasized his opposition to the Blunt amendment that would have exempted employers from having to violate their consciences with and pledged to keep up his opposition to “personhood” proposals.

Concerning same-sex “marriage” and religious liberty, Sullivan supports the Marriage Protection Amendment which would define marriage as between a man and a woman for the entire country. Begich, meanwhile, stated to BuzzFeed in 2013, “I believe that same sex couples should be able to marry and should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other married couple.”

None of the voter guides revealed whether either candidate supports the death penalty.

As for immigration reform, Sullivan stated in his primary debate that according to the law, “you deport people who come here illegally,” and added that “one of the things we have to do with regard to this is make sure we are enforcing the laws.”

Begich, on the other hand, did vote for a pathway to permanent residency for undocumented immigrants, according to the Catholic Anchor voter guide. In 2013, he supported S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”

The Catholic Anchor did not endorse a candidate, but CatholicVote urged Alaska Catholics to vote for Dan Sullivan. “We believe the choice is clear: Catholics and all Alaskans should vote for Dan Sullivan for U.S. Senate,” the group stated.

“We have life, marriage and religious liberty at the top of the list, because these issues are foundational. And on life, marriage and religious liberty, Dan Sullivan is immeasurably better than Mark Begich.”

Of those three issues, the group’s political director Joshua Mercer explained, “another way of looking at it is if you don’t get these right, you’re not going to get other things right.”

Although Sullivan revealed he is Catholic on his campaign website, he hasn’t talked his faith much on the campaign trail, Mercer noted.

One instance where Sullivan did mention it was during the primary debate when he was asked about abortion and marriage. “He did it rather modestly,” Mercer said. “It’s not like in Texas or the Bible Belt where people expect you to really open up. People in Alaska are very much like people here in the Midwest where they just don’t wear (their faith) on their sleeve.”

Tags: Alaska

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