Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D-Alaska) and former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) sparred over issues critical to the fishing industry Wednesday night, with Begich and his close ties to the industry on display in the candidates' first general election debate.

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Sullivan, who participated in the Kodiak debate after initially saying he wouldn't, faced more heated questions over his views on the Pebble Mine, a controversial project planned for the area that fishermen worry could hurt their industry.

Sullivan said he didn't support the Pebble Mine, a proposed copper and gold mine near the headwaters of a key sockeye salmon run, but wanted a process to be created for projects like the mine to be vetted, according to The Associated Press.

Begich called the project the "wrong mine in the wrong place," to applause from the audience.

Sullivan also was pressed on whether he'd support energy development in the Bristol Bay region, which Begich opposes. Sullivan said he'd "look at the science" before making a decision.

Begich, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on oceans and fisheries, has made his support of the fishing industry a key part of his campaign, and will need to dominate the vote from those involved in the industry to win in November. Sullivan has taken the lead in recent polling and Republicans are increasingly bullish about his chances.

The panel made it clear they were more familiar with Begich and his positions.

"Well, Senator Begich, we've heard a lot from you, but we really haven't had an opportunity to question Mr. Sullivan," local fishing reporter Laine Welch said at one point.