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Alaska Democrats cry foul on Treadwell's role with Romney campaign

Amanda Coyne
Photo via Treadwell Flickr feed

The Alaska Democratic Party chair is calling on Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell to step down from 2012 Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney's Alaska steering committee. As lieutenant governor, Treadwell is in charge of supervising the state's election process. Democratic Party chair Patty Higgins thinks the two roles are incompatible.

"One of the jobs of our lieutenant governor is to make sure elections are run fairly and impartially. If the top election official in the state comes out in support of a candidate, it gives the appearance of a conflict of interest," Higgins wrote in a press release.

"If Romney makes it through to the general, you have Alaska's top election official publicly supporting one candidate over another," she said.

The GOP race is a toss-up in Alaska. U.S. Congressman Ron Paul is the only candidate to have visited the state, holding rallies in Anchorage and Fairbanks on Sunday.

Treadwell was in Canada for the Arctic Winter games on Monday and unavailable for comment. Andree McLeod, a watchdog, filed a complaint with then-Attorney General John Burns when Treadwell first endorsed Romney in October. Burns found that Treadwell didn't misuse his office when he endorsed Romney because Treadwell wasn’t using state office equipment or time in his work for Romney.  

But Treadwell's involvement in the Romney campaign seems to have grown since then. When the steering committee was formed in February, the announcement of the committee appears to have come from Treadwell himself. At the very least, the press release from the Romney campaign said the following:

"Announcing the formation of Mitt Romney’s Alaska Steering Committee, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said, 'Mitt Romney has such widespread support in Alaska because he is the only conservative candidate with the record and vision to defeat President Obama. More than any other candidate, he stands for a prosperous future for Alaska and the nation.'"

He, along with 10 other Alaskans including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and pollster David Dittman, are on the committee. Find the whole list here.

Upon reading the announcement of the steering committee, McCloud wrote an email to Treadwell and Gov. Sean Parnell. "…(T)he title of Lieutenant Governor, does not solely belong to you to do as you, or others, will. That title ultimately belongs to the people of Alaska and ought to represent and benefit ALL Alaskans and Alaska's public interests, and not solely your personal partisan political interests," she wrote. (Read much more here).

In an interview, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman said that he sees nothing wrong with Treadwell's role in the Romney campaign, as long as he keeps it separate from state business. Leman, who is "very interested" in running for U.S. Senate or governor in 2014, endorsed federal candidates while he was in office from 2002 to 2006. He said that he didn't have much to do with elections when he was lieutenant governor. "I was hands off except for when we worked on budgets and general policy issues," he said.

He was cognizant of the perception of conflict, however, and "guarded against" getting too actively involved.

Contact Amanda Coyne at Amanda@alaskadispatch.com