Sullivan says surprise candidacy followed call to Joe Miller

2010 file photo of Dan Sullivan when he was mayor of Anchorage. Brehl Garza/USARAK
2010 file photo of Dan Sullivan when he was mayor of Anchorage. Brehl Garza/USARAK

Ex-Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan surprised everyone yesterday  by filing to run against U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican Primary, minutes before the 5 p.m. filing deadline.

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Sullivan says he didn’t want to put his hat in until he knew who else was running. Late in the afternoon, he spoke to Murkowski’s 2010 rival, Joe Miller.

“I called (Miller), and he indicated he decided not to run,” Sullivan said today. “And, that’s why my decision was kind of last-minute, because he was, I know, contemplating it as well.”

Murkowski has more than $3 million cash on hand, and her campaign says they’re staffed and ready for the challenge.

Sullivan, on the first full day of his campaign, was making calls and strategizing. He says he probably won’t be able to mount a big media campaign, but in a closed Republican primary, Sullivan hopes he can do a lot with a small budget.

“I’m going to probably drive from Valdez to Tok a couple of times, and stop at many places along the way and just talk with people,” he said.

Sullivan says he doesn’t want to say anything bad about Murkowski. Their families have been friends for decades. He says he’ll run on his record as a conservative and a budget hawk. Murkowski’s campaign, in web ads, identifies her as “the conservative voice for Alaska.” But she has a mixed voting record on abortion, and Sullivan says it’s a likely campaign issue.

“Yeah, I would be the pro-life candidate in the Primary, so that clearly is one area of distinction,” he said.

If Sullivan ultimately wins, he might have a tougher time distinguishing himself from Alaska’s other U.S. Senator. At least the two Dan Sullivans have different middle names.

Other candidates in the race are Republican Bob Lochner, who had about $100 in his campaign account at the end of March; Libertarian Cean Stevens, who had about $900; and Independent Margaret Stock, who had more than $230,000 cash on hand.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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