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Mike Dingman: If the measure is money, the man is Dan

Mike Dingman

It was supposed to be the U.S. Senate race of the century.

After Senator Mark Begich unseated the mighty and ostensibly anointed Senator Ted Stevens, the wait was agonizing for Republicans to run someone against him.

It seemed like every Republican in the state was rumored to be in the running at one point or another. Names like Loren Leman, Andrew Halcro, Mead Treadwell, Sean Parnell, Lesil McGuire, Dan Sullivan and Daniel Sullivan (or as the late great Alaska Ear called him "The Other Dan Sullivan") are all just some of the names that were rumored to be possible suitors for the coveted title.

For political analysts, pundits and writers the story lines were drool-worthy. We had the possibility of two Daniel Sullivans on the same ballot, the Governor running against the Lt. Governor; matchups of old guard hard-core conservatives against their more moderate adversaries -- the possibilities were endless.

However, that's not what we got. Daniel Sullivan and Mead Treadwell came out the two main contenders with Joe Miller running in the background to cause a little drama.

This election cycle promised to be one of the more exciting ones ever for many reasons, not just that race. After the obligatory lawsuits, complaints of gerrymandering and other faux outrage, the redistricting maps were drawn up, again, most of the Legislature will be running for their "new" districts.

This election will also see some interesting ballot measures. There are ballot measures that would repeal the new oil tax structure created by SB 21, make recreational marijuana legal -- similar to laws in Colorado and Washington -- raise the minimum wage to $9.75 an hour over a two year period and one to ban mining in the Bristol Bay Region. (You know, to stop that one specific pesky copper mine, which - apparently - doesn't deserve its due process)

Some of these might become very interesting. In 2000 a decriminalization vote lost by 19 points. However, the tide has changed on marijuana nationally, and the same has been true here at home. In 2013 a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll said that 60 percent of those polled in Alaska were in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.

The vote on oil taxes may likely be very interesting as well, particularly if the repeal passes and the state has to decide how to go about defining its tax policy.

Those story lines still exist and are still fun to watch. The main event, however, has been reduced to a little more than a foregone conclusion.

"It is already over!"

That was the tease on The Dave Stieren Show's Facebook page; the next day, Dave Stieren followed it up by explaining that he felt the race for the Republican nominee to take on the sitting senator was all but over.

When it comes to fundraising, there's no question who is out in front. Sullivan raised $1.25 million while Treadwell raised $327,000 and Joe Miller somehow brought in around $28,000 according to an article in Politico in January.

You might say that money isn't everything, and that statement is a little bit true. However, in order to run a successful campaign on this scale, cash on hand is crucial. U.S. Senate campaigns are not grass roots, door-to-door type campaigns. They aren't won with yard signs and handshakes on the doorstep; they are won on the television and radio airwaves.

As far as polling goes, there's been very little reported and what has been reported are brief mentions or incomplete information from polls that weren't released to the public. Without knowing the questions in the rest of the poll or the question asked that leads to the numbers, it's hard to judge the validity of the polling data.

It is hard to say why we missed out on our heavyweight fight in the primary. Either the job wasn't enticing enough, not enough Republicans think they can beat Mark Begich or there were too many different opportunities for candidates to look at.

Regardless, it will be an interesting and likely exciting ballot season with big ticket races on both the primary ballot in August and the general election in November. Stay tuned.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president who has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late 90s. Email, michaeldingman@gmail.com.


Mike Dingman
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