Tea Party Favorite Campaigns for 'Establishment' Nominee to Unseat Begich

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)

Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan has not only picked up the endorsement of the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), but Tea Party Express has also paid for a statewide radio campaign featuring an ad narrated by former GOP Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.

Whatever hard feelings might have been left from the Sullivan vs. Miller clashes during the Alaska GOP Senate primary campaign have been set aside.

It was a tough primary race between former Attorney General Sullivan, Miller and Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Miller accused his opponents of being “establishment Republicans” who sided with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and were not nearly as conservative as they should have been.

It was Murkowski who ran a write-in campaign that defeated Miller’s general election bid for the Senate in 2010.

However, that was then; this is now.

Tea Party Express Executive Director Taylor Budowich said it is all about winning the general election Nov. 4.

“President Obama and Senator Harry Reid have been able to count on Mark Begich to cast key votes that advance their liberal agenda. The only thing voters of Alaska have been able to count on is that Begich will sell them out to please Obama and Reid,” said Budowich in a statement released by Tea Party Express. “Alaskans deserve better.”

Begich had no problem telling the Washington Examiner that he did vote for Obama. But Begich said in a new campaign ad, "Works for Alaska," that he has disagreed with Obama on several issues important to Alaska voters.

Begich also said that Obama was no longer relevant because a new president would be sworn into office in January 2017.

Joe Miller doesn’t back away from the attempt to tie Begich to Obama in the Tea Party Express-sponsored radio advertisement.

“I ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate because Barack Obama’s assault on America must be stopped,” said Miller. “It is still a priority for me to rid the Senate of Obama’s liberal allies, like Senator Mark Begich, who have brought more taxes, government regulations and intrusion into our daily lives. He seems to have completely lost touch with Alaska.”

Elections, especially winnable elections, heal all wounds. The Tea Party Express was a major supporter of Miller in his upset primary victory in 2010 against Murkowski.

But now, Murkowski and Miller say they have found common ground on the importance of defeating Begich.

And just because the Tea Party Express has endorsed Sullivan and is using Miller to support him doesn’t mean Miller has lost all Tea Party support.

“We have been proud to stand with Joe Miller in the past, and we look forward to standing with him again in the future. Now is the time for Alaskans to join together and ensure that liberal Mark Begich’s tenure in Washington comes to an end,” said Budowich.

In another of his home stretch campaign ads, "I’m on Alaska’s Side," Sullivan lists all of the conservative hot-button issues like “EPA overreach, gun rights, Obamacare, amnesty and spending,” and says again, “Mark Begich is with Obama, and I’m with you.”

Sullivan also pointed out in the ad, “I left my home in Alaska to fight terrorism after 9/11.”

True enough. But whether Sullivan’s “home in Alaska” was his primary residence has been a constant campaign issue raised by Begich, who was born and raised in the nation’s 49th state.

Sullivan was born and raised in Ohio, and although his wife was born in Alaska Sullivan listed his primary residence as a $1.3 million home in Maryland. The Begich campaign has charged that might mean he is not even eligible to run for office in Alaska.

The idea that Sullivan is an Outsider (and in Alaska that is spelled with an upper case “O”), and Begich is not, is a hook on which the first-term senator has consistently hung his campaign.

The Democrat not so subtly pointed to his family’s heritage in the opening lines of the campaign ad “Works for Alaska.”

Begich conducted an extensive get-out-the-vote campaign in rural Alaska, opening triple the number of fields offices as the Sullivan campaign with 90 field workers in 16 offices.

Sullivan had five offices open in the rural area referred to as “The Bush” in Alaska, with 14 paid staff members.

Begich spoke to the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference Oct. 24 in Anchorage.

Begich pointed out in his speech, which was broadcast statewide, that he had been a regular for years at AFN conferences.

“And I know the quickest way to get a tribal elder to swear is to yell ‘Bingo!’” he said.

Begich also reminded convention delegates that he had pushed federal officials to improve healthcare services for military veterans in rural Alaska.

“This is now a national model for the rest of the country,” he said. “I stand for you when you are not present. We will never be done fighting for Alaskan Native rights.”

Real Clear Politics had the Alaska Senate election as “too close to call,” with just over a week to go before Election Day. But in many states, including Alaska, early voting had already begun.

In fact, thousands of delegates to the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference could walk right across the street to cast their ballots.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)