GOP Fight Heats Up in Quest to Unseat Begich

The phrase Alaska Heat is probably an oxymoron in most arenas of the nation’s 49th state except the political arena.

How could it be anything else in the state that gave the world Sarah Palin?

Not that things have ever cooled off, but the Alaska political arena is sizzling two weeks before summer.

The Alaska GOP Senate primary has moved into a statistical dead heat with Mead Treadwell, the lieutenant governor of Alaska, and Dan Sullivan, a former natural resources commissioner, at 37 percent to 35 percent, respectively.

The poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters that was released June 3 showed a surge in support for Treadwell as compared to the poll released in May that was also conducted by Anchorage-based Dittman Research and paid for by Anchorage Mayor Dan A. Sullivan’s campaign for lieutenant governor.

Yes. As if the Alaska political scene wasn’t interesting enough, there will be two Dan Sullivans on the ballot. Dan S. Sullivan is running for the U.S. Senate.

He was Alaska’s attorney general under Sarah Palin.

There is only one Sarah Palin.

The other Dan Sullivan, Dan A. Sullivan, is running for lieutenant governor.

The May poll showed the Dan Sullivan running for the Senate, Dan S. Sullivan, also known to many as “Afghan Dan” because of his military service as a U.S. Marine, trailing Treadwell by 14 points.

What a difference a month can make. With the poll’s 4 percent margin of error, Sullivan has soared into a virtual tie with Treadwell.

Joe Miller, the Tea Party-backed Republican who won the GOP Senate primary in 2010 only to lose to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the general election, trails Sullivan and Treadwell by double digits.

The candidate who drew the support of Palin in 2010 had support from 12 percent of the voters who were surveyed.

Fifteen percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

“The race for Alaska’s Republican Senate primary is far from over. It’s just getting started. Alaskans want someone who knows Alaska and who has a record of fighting for Alaska to take the fight to Washington,” said Treadwell.

“Sadly, some of my opponents continue to decline to debate the issues that matter most to Alaska. Alaskans expect a debate and deserve debates. They seem not to understand that Alaskans want to know their public officials, personally.”

Sullivan has not paid much attention to Treadwell during the past month. The Sullivan campaign has focused its attacks on Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), whom Republican strategists see as very vulnerable.

Sullivan, with the help of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS super PAC, has been blasting Begich – a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – for allegedly not paying attention, or at least not reacting quickly enough, to the VA scandal that embroiled Washington in May.

Sullivan also criticized Begich for not calling for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, who was running the VA when the scandal broke out.

“Instead, he has looked the other way and chosen to give the Obama administration a free pass. Once again, he has taken sides with President Obama rather than the Alaskans he is supposed to represent,” said Sullivan.

The Sullivan team also accused the Begich campaign of being “propped up and supported by environmental extremists committed to preventing any responsible resource development in Alaska,” said Mike Anderson, spokesman for the Sullivan for Senate campaign. "It's telling that Mark Begich is getting help from an extreme New York City environmentalist group. Despite what he says back here in Alaska, his record in D.C. tells a very different story."

"Begich's record is more in line with liberal East Coast environmentalists than the average Alaskan voter. So, it's no surprise his radical allies are inserting themselves into Alaska politics."

Begich, the target of the first major TV advertising campaign focusing on the Veterans Affairs scandal, is now feeling the power of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s automated phone bank.

The calls going out to voters in Alaska accuses Begich of supporting the new EPA Clean Power Plan, saying, “It’s not surprising Mark Begich stands by Barack Obama’s costly regulations, because he supported the same cap-and-trade energy tax plan as Obama.“