Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Former Alaska DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan Joins Republican Chase For Mark Begich's Senate Seat

The Republican race to replace Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich got a bit more crowded on October 15th, 2013, when former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Sullivan, who is not to be confused with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, becomes the third "marquee" Republican in the race, joining Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller. John Jaramillo and Kathleen Tonn are the other two Republicans in the race as of this post.

Visit Sullivan2014.com for more on Dan and his campaign.

Sullivan began with a pitch for party unity, appealing to his opponents to talk more about what they want to do right rather than what the other person's doing wrong. He says he has the experience, leadership and fighting spirit to get big things done in the Senate, and his prior service as George W. Bush's Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs implies he has some inside understanding on how the executive branch works. Sullivan says his campaign will focus on areas including energy and what he refers to as a "renaissance" in production, pushing back against federal overreach, protecting individual rights, standing up for veterans and fiscal security. As a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, he possesses first hand understanding of veteran's issues; he even deployed to Afghanistan this past summer after being recalled to active military duty. Sullivan also said he has a record of getting things done and bringing different sides together, pointing to a settlement he helped broker that ended a long-running dispute over leases to develop the Point Thomson gas fields, which helped clear the way for progress on a major natural gas pipeline project. Akbizmag has the complete text of Sullivan's announcement.

Sullivan began his service at the state level when then-Governor Sarah Palin picked him to be her attorney general in June 2009. After Sean Parnell became governor, Sullivan then switched to the Department of Natural Resources. He's married with three daughters.

Reaction: Mead Treadwell's campaign released a statement welcoming Sullivan to the race. Treadwell referred to Sullivan as "my friend" and referred to himself as the conservative candidate with the experience and credentials to defeat Begich. However, back on September 20th, Treadwell was anything but friendly towards Sullivan in a Politico interview, claiming that Sullivan's entry into the race would help Joe Miller, and noting that his 40 years residency in Alaska trumps Sullivan's 16 years residency, quipping “I’ve got a jar of mayonnaise in my refrigerator that’s been there longer than Dan Sullivan’s been in Alaska.” Back in September, pollster Marc Hellenthal opined that Sullivan's entrance into the race could help Joe Miller, projecting that while Miller's support probably tops out at 35-40 percent, that could be enough to win if there is an even split of the rest of the vote. It is an open secret that Mark Begich jizzes himself at the thought of running against Miller in the general election.

Late on October 15th, Joe Miller reacted. Campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto stated, “Competition is good for the Republican Party. We look forward to a healthy debate about how to best restore what has been our nation’s true birthright: to live in a land where our constitutional freedoms are secure and where the American dream is alive and well. We trust during the course of this campaign the primary voters will learn the clear distinctions between the candidates and their views of the role of government in our daily lives.”

Harper Polling anticipated Sullivan's announcement in advance. Back on September 24-25, they conducted telephonic polling of 731 likely voters, and here are the most pertinent results:

-- Begich vs. Treadwell: Begich 43 percent, Treadwell 42 percent, Not Sure 15 percent.
-- Begich vs. Sullivan: Begich 43 percent, Sullivan 41 percent, Not Sure 16 percent.
-- Begich vs. Miller: Begich 55 percent, Miller 28 percent, Not Sure 18 percent.

While Treadwell and Sullivan have relatively equal favorable/unfavorable ratings, Miller is 66 percent Unfavorable and only 15 percent Favorable. The Weekly Standard opines that while Begich would have a tough fight against either Treadwell or Sullivan, he would blow out Miller.

Prognosis: This may become a relatively equal three-way race for a while, but Joe Miller's high negatives, which he cannot seem to overcome, may turn it into a two-person race between Treadwell and Sullivan. Do Alaska Republicans want to vote for the candidate that makes headlines and political statements, or a candidate who can actually defeat Mark Begich? Treadwell has some good ideas, but Dan Sullivan is worthy of closer attention. If Governor Sean Parnell awards an endorsement, he's more likely to endorse Sullivan rather than Treadwell because there has been some behind-the-scenes friction between Parnell and Treadwell.

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