Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell announced early this morning he’s running for Senate. He said he’s entering the race, instead of running for reelection, because he knows he can win.
His announcement named neither Begich nor the GOP primary. If he wants to face Begich, he’ll need to survive what’s expected to be a rough nominating contest.
Treadwell took a swipe at fellow Republican candidate Joe Miller without naming him.
“I think Republicans know we need a credible conservative candidate to take on Mark Begich,” he said in an early phone interview. “We know we need unity to win.”
That unity was lacking in the 2010 race. Miller, then a political neophyte, stormed onto the scene and upset incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in the primary. She went on to win the general election in a write-in campaign.
Murkowski urged Treadwell to run but out of principle will remain neutral during the primary.
“The best thing to do is steer clear of it,” she said Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. “I learned that from my father, who didn’t endorse me for my very first race for the Alaska state legislature because I was in a contested primary. It was good advice.”
She called Treadwell the front runner.
Miller said he welcomes Treadwell’s announcement; that competition is good for the party. He said he sees himself as the anti-establishment candidate, and Alaskans will have a clear distinction in the primary.
He would not highlight those differences, but said they’ll be apparent as the race develops.
“I would consider all of the candidates that are at least contemplating getting into this race as establishment type candidates,” he said.
Many observers in Washington see Treadwell as the establishment candidate, too. He’ll be here next week meeting with party leaders – including the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That group – officially tasked with regaining control of the Senate – refuses to discuss Miller’s candidacy.
It would like to avoid another nasty primary, which doesn’t take place until August 2014. The group has said Begich’s seat is crucial to winning control of the upper chamber.
“If you can put the Republicans back in the leadership you’d make Lisa Murkowski the head of the Senate Energy Committee. That’s going to help with ANWR. That’s going to help us with access to our lands. That’s the defining issue,” Treadwell said.
It’s hard to see a difference between Begich and Treadwell on the major issue in the state: Both support expanded oil and gas drilling.
Treadwell promised to campaign on three causes: Fighting for liberty, fighting for fiscal sanity, and fighting for Alaska.
He invokes a sacred name when he talks of his campaign: former Senator Ted Stevens. He said he’ll follow in the Stevens tradition of bringing power back to Alaska – letting Alaskans make decisions about the state, not the federal government.
“That part of his legacy, of trying to bring the decision making home is the legacy I want to work on,” he said. “We have a federal system now of spending too much, borrowing too much, taxing too much. Asking the federal government for earmarks is probably not the right way to go.”
Of course, Stevens is most remembered as the chair of the Appropriations Committee who doled out government money and projects all over Alaska.
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with the Cook Political Report,said even though it’s early, this does not look like it will be as monumental a primary as 2010.
“You don’t see the Tea Party groups rallying around Miller like they did in 2010. The other thing is: I have not heard any of these groups having a real problem with Treadwell,” Duffy said.
Those groups don’t have any issues with Governor Sean Parnell either, and Duffy said that helps Treadwell.
And this far off, other candidates have plenty of time to enter the race.