Millions of dollars in political advertising will rain down upon the eyes and ears of Alaska residents by Labor Day in what will be one of the most expensive and nastiest campaigns in the general election season as Republicans picked their nominee to try to unseat Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
The American Crossroads super PAC had already reserved $5.5 million in ad time to support whichever Republican won the Alaska GOP Senate primary on Tuesday.
The winner turned out to be the GOP establishment’s favorite: former attorney general Dan Sullivan. With nearly all precincts reporting, Sullivan led Joe Miller 40 percent to 32 percent. Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell was in third place with 25 percent.
Democrats had also been banking on a Sullivan victory.
The Begich campaign was targeting him months before the primary, spending $5.2 million on political ads before the primary election even though the Democrat only had token opposition on his side of the ballot.
Democrats continued the attacks on Sullivan as soon as he was declared the winner.
“After carrying water for Sarah Palin and trying to restrict access to public lands for hunters and fishers, Sullivan is now hoping to do the Koch brothers’ bidding in the U.S. Senate,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director Matt Canter said in a statement.
“Sullivan is an Outsider and his campaign is bankrolled by Outside special interests that want to privatize Medicare and Social Security, eliminate a federal minimum wage, and protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.”
The Put Alaska First super PAC was promising to spend at least $4 million on advertising over two months to back the Begich re-election effort.
Beyond what the Outsiders (that is considered a proper noun in Alaska) are promising to do on behalf of both candidates, the one-term senator faces a united Republican Party in Alaska.
Treadwell called Sullivan not long after the polls closed not to concede — Treadwell finished a disappointing third — but to offer his support in the general election campaign.
Miller, the wild card in everything political in Alaska, promised in the last televised debate between the three GOP Senate primary candidates to back the party’s nominee.
“I’ve never said this before; I’ll support you guys. I will,” Miller said. “We’ve got to get rid of Begich. There’s no question about it.”
But Miller, who surprised some pollsters by finishing just 8 points behind Sullivan, made his fellow Republicans more than a little nervous by initially refusing to concede defeat.
Five hours after the polls closed in Alaska, Miller was holding out hope that absentee ballots would put him ahead of Sullivan.
However, at 4 a.m. Alaska time, Miller issued a statement congratulating Sullivan.
“While there are still over 20,000 absentee ballots to be counted and several major precincts yet to report, it seems unlikely we will be able to close the 7,000 vote gap, given the current trends,” Miller said. “I have called and congratulated Dan Sullivan for running a strong campaign.”
Miller turned into a real force in Alaska politics again with his 2014 primary campaign. He picked up three important endorsements in the days before the primary from James Dobson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who had stayed on the sidelines.
It was Palin who was credited with putting Miller over the top in his 2010 GOP Senate primary win over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). She came back as an independent, a rogue candidate if you will, and defeated him the following November.