As the race for the Alaskan Senate nears its finale, a triumvirate of Republicans seek to topple the vulnerable Democratic majority in the Senate. Polls indicate that former Alaskan attorney general Dan Sullivan leads the pack over the two underdogs, Commissioner of Natural Resources Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller, the well-liked, Tea Party-backed lieutenant governor.
Republicans have steered clear of rebellious Tea Party uprisings this primary season. Throughout senatorial primaries this year, namely Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas, incumbent Senators have been able to maintain their tenure in Congress. Moreover, far-right and feeble conservative candidates, those of whom would have been vulnerable against Democrats, have failed to emerge in Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina. However, the tides seem to be shifting with the race in Alaska.
On Monday, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) started a dialogue with the residents of the state asking how they have benefited from years of a Democratic presence in the Senate. “I’ve yet to see it,” she added. Murkowski explained to reporters that she would work diligently after the primary’s end on Tuesday night to ensure a Republican win over the incumbent, Democrat Mark Begich. Begich took the seat in 2008 from long-tenured Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who had held the seat since 1968.
Sullivan is currently considered the favorite and front runner for Tuesday’s primary election. He has made much more headway in fundraising – 4 million dollars in total, with $204,000 still left in the coffers for the next 24 hours. He has won continuous support from a fairly wide range of conservative and business organizations. Sullivan has also been endorsed by the infamous Republican strategist, Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads PAC contributed $300,000 to the campaign.
In every poll conducted this year regarding the primary race, Sullivan has led his competitors rather comfortably. Since June 1 he has led by an average of around 10 points. Coming in second is Treadwell with around 25 percent and Miller in third with a dismal 15 to 20 percent of the vote.
Although Republican hopes are high with Sullivan, there are some lingering doubts. His campaign has been carpet bombed by millions of dollars in negative advertisements, mainly from Begich. One of the main attack ads describes him as an outsider, not a true Alaskan. Sullivan relocated to Alaska in 1997 after attending law school. After a brief residence, he left in 2002 for Washington and returned in 2009. Being labeled as an outsider in Alaska is cause for alarm, due to the fact that it is separated from the continental United States by hundreds of miles.
His competitors are also not completely out of the race. On Friday, former Republican governor Sarah Palin endorsed Tea Party favorite Joe Miller by saying he has the “guts, wisdom, experience and optimism to fight for what is right.” Miller and Treadwell have been hitting the roads of Alaska to do some last minute grass roots campaigning to reinvigorate their bases and convince current Sullivan supporters to switch to a different conservative following.
Nonetheless, while attacks have been lobbed towards the direction of Sullivan, it has not had much of an effect on his lead in the polls. Alaskan political blogger Amanda Coyne stated, “I think that it’s Sullivan’s [primary] to lose.” Considering he has led with a double digit advantage in the polls all year, only a truly devastating development will derail his chances at facing Begich in November. Nevertheless, if Sullivan holds on to his ironclad lead for the next 24 hours, he will be a formidable challenger in the senatorial fight amongst the Alaskan tundra.
By Alex Lemieux