Our View: May our Senate candidates take the high road

June 18, 2013 

Senate race

Treadwell versus Begich should be a good, hard battle

When Mead Treadwell ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, he easily defeated Fairbanks state Rep. Jay Ramras in what many thought would be a close race.

That won't be the case with his challenge of incumbent Mark Begich for one of Alaska's two seats in the United States Senate.

The primary is more than a year away, and Treadwell could yet face Republican challengers from farther to the right -- Joe Miller may try again. But Treadwell is likely the strongest candidate the GOP could run. Commissioner Dan Sullivan of the Department of Natural Resources would be another, but Treadwell has the edge in name recognition and likely in donor lists as well.

Barring a major surprise ( and Alaskans who have been around for awhile know never to assume no surprises), Begich will have no primary opposition.

So let's say it boils down to Begich and Treadwell. Both have won statewide races. Both will have plenty of money, and a lot of outside money too, because Republicans figure they have a shot at beating Begich and gaining a Senate seat here. Democrats are just as determined not to yield that seat.

Treadwell's advantage is that he's a conservative Republican running in a red state. He has a long history here with Wally Hickel, the Institute of the North and in business. He'll have the full support of the Republican establishment here and nationally -- the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NSRC) has been sending out daily shots at Begich for some time.

Begich's advantage is that he knows how to be a successful Democrat in a red state and red city. He doesn't blink at reality and knows how to deal. He may be the savviest politician in Alaska. No one will outwork him. Like the NSRC, Begich has been campaigning for months even before he had an opponent. And you can bet he's not surprised by Treadwell's decision.

With his announcement Tuesday, Treadwell already was trying to put Begich on the defensive. He stressed his core conservative values, family, faith and his desire to end what he called the "assault on our families and freedoms" from Washington, D.C. He invoked the name of the late Sen. Ted Stevens -- "Uncle Ted" to so many Alaskans, defeated by Begich in 2008.

Before long their respective campaigns will have drawn the battle lines even more sharply.

Refreshing would be a race taken to a higher level, with tough, honest debate about how the nation and Alaska should go about their business and how each candidate will work to those ends for the next six years. Both Begich and Treadwell have the smarts to raise the current level of debate; each should be challenged -- and challenge each other -- to defend and explain their records, to talk both their achievements and what they haven't been able to do. And each should face questions about what he would do differently, how his thinking has changed.

There will be plenty to talk about, from Syria to the North Slope, and who knows what new challenges by this time in 2014.

They can do better than slogans and sound bites. The jaded say otherwise, but Alaskans are hungry for an intelligent debate, not a big-money race to the bottom of the brain stem.

Gentlemen, show us how it's done.

BOTTOM LINE: Senate candidates should run hard on the high road.

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