Former Alaska Natural Resources commissioner Dan Sullivan won a nasty—and with nearly $10 million spent, costly—GOP primary Tuesday to take on Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat vying for a second term — and it didn’t take long for the two campaigns to start slinging attacks at each other.
With 98.6% of precincts reporting, Sullivan garnered 40% of the vote to Tea Partier Joe Miller’s surprisingly strong 32% and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s embarrassing 23%. Though Miller had once threatened to run as an independent spoiler should he lose the primary, he said in recent weeks that he’d back the nominee. With the Republican Party finally united after an eight-month primary battle, Sullivan and Democrats quickly turned to the general election fight.
Labeling Sullivan an “Outsider” within minutes of the results, Democrats launched what will surely be the first of many attacks on what they call Sullivan’s carpetbagger status. Sullivan grew up in Ohio before joining the Marines. When he left the Corps in 1997, he moved to Alaska where he practiced law for five years before moving to Washington DC to join the Bush Administration in 2002. He returned to Alaska in 2007 to serve as then Gov. Sarah Palin’s attorney general and then director of the National Resources Commission.
“Alaska’s bitter and divisive Republican primary exposed that Dan Sullivan does not look out for what’s in the best interests of Alaskans,” said Matt Canter, deputy director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate. “After carrying water for Sarah Palin and trying to restrict access to public lands for hunters and fishers, Sullivan is now hoping to do the Koch brothers’ bidding in the U.S. Senate.”
Republicans, meanwhile, worked to tie Begich, a former Anchorage mayor, to President Obama, who is disliked by six out of 10 Alaskan voters. “Mark Begich has championed the Obama agenda, and served on [Senate majority leader] Harry Reid’s leadership team that has brought the Senate to a grinding halt,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate. “Even though Senator Begich has failed to pass even a single amendment during his five years in Washington, he has voted for the Obama agenda a staggering 97% of the time – including costly energy taxes, spending increases, and of course, ObamaCare.”
Alaska remains one of the most hard fought Senate races and the battle between Begich and Sullivan—and their outside groups— is only just ramping up. If Alaskans were hoping for a respite in the biting television ads and dirty mailers, it’s going to be another two and a half months yet.