3 February 2023

Alaska GOP Wrestles Over Spot in 2014 Senate Race

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Three Republicans face off Tuesday at the end of a bruising battle for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in the fall, one of the most critical races for determining control of the Senate. The Alaska race features a battle between the establishment and Tea Party wings of the GOP. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin jumped in over the weekend to support an underdog Tea Party favorite.

Alaska is one of seven vulnerable, Democratic-held U.S. Senate seats that will help determine which party controls the chamber in the next Congress. Democrats enjoy a 55-45 majority; Republicans need a net gain of six seats for a takeover. The GOP is likely to gain at least three seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

The front-runner for the GOP nomination in Alaska, Dan Sullivan, is a former Alaska attorney general and a Marine officer who has led in polling. Sullivan faces Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is well-known across Alaska and enjoys support in the state's native communities, and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who was endorsed by Palin in the closing days of the race. With Palin's support, Miller won the 2010 GOP primary against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but she went on to win the general election in a write-in campaign.

In an Alaskan election-year tradition, the three candidates attended a church service at Anchorage Baptist Temple on Sunday and mingled among other political hopefuls in a last minute push for support. Each of the candidates has publicly pledged to support the primary winner, assuaging some GOP concerns that the party is too divided to mount an effective campaign against Begich this November.

Put Alaska First, a Democratic offshoot of the Senate Majority PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been focused almost exclusively on attack ads against Sullivan in the lead-up to the primary.

Miller is the most conservative candidate in the primary, particularly on social issues such as abortion rights. He is the candidate Democrats would most like to run against in November because his brand of Tea Party conservatism could turn off the state's more centrist voters. More than half of the state's electorate is not registered with a political party.

Begich faces only token opposition in his Democratic primary. Begich was first elected in 2008 and has served only under the Obama administration. Republicans align him with national Democrats, but he campaigns as an independent-minded senator who is happy to oppose Obama on issues critical to Alaskans, such as privacy rights and gun control laws.

More than $8 million has been spent in the race, more than half of which has come from Democrats' negative attacks on Republicans. Republicans are likely to unleash on Begich this fall. Crossroads alone has reserved $5.5 million in ad time for September and October.

Click here to access the full article on USA Today.

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