Less than a month after one of the longest election seasons in modern political history, Alaskans awoke to the news on Saturday that yet another campaign -- this one for a seat in the U.S. Senate -- has unofficially begun.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, speaking at a mining and minerals conference on Friday in Fairbanks, said he planned to explore the prospect of running against incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska's only Democrat in Congress.
Treadwell's announcement, which had been widely anticipated by many Alaskans, kicked off what's sure to become a political slug-fest for the seat held some 40 years by Ted Stevens, until Begich narrowly defeated him in 2008. Alaska Dispatch called Treadwell for comment on this article but messages were not immediately returned.
The question is who Treadwell will have to knock off in the closed Republican primary in order to get a shot at Begich. Alaska's GOP primaries are messy affairs during which the party's many factions brawl for ideological supremacy. In the last two election cycles, primaries eclipsed the excitement factor of the general election, thanks in no small part to exceptionally strong conservative grassroots organizing coupled with an increasingly weak and faceless Democratic organization.
Challengers are expected to be numerous. Whenever Begich is asked who is going to run against him, he says, "who isn’t?" But Treadwell's been working hard the past years to bolster his conservative bona fides in the state. The once loftly, relatively moderate Republican can now stump with the best of Alaska's conservatives on issues like abortion and state's rights.
Begich plays to win
Beltway pundits think Begich may be vulnerable in 2014. Whatever the case, expect a slug-fest. If Begich is vulnerable in the eyes of Alaska Republicans, it's due to what are perceived as some shady union contracts he negotiated during two terms as mayor of Anchorage. It's also due to Alaska's libertarian leanings and because the ghost of Ted Stevens still haunts the land.
But since defeating Stevens, Begich has made a name for himself in the Senate, rising quickly in the majority leadership to help shepherd Shell Oil Arctic drilling plans through the Obama administration, thereby getting closer than any Republicans in Juneau have toward actually adding more crude to the trans-Alaska pipeline.
And Begich is one of the state's best politicians.
Alaska is a Republican state and Treadwell has an august resume of his own: prior to serving as lieutenant governor, he was chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. He's also been successful keeping a relatively high profile as lieutenant governor, dabbling in transportation and aviation policy while taking a public role in the legal challenge to federal jurisdiction of Alaska's voting laws and election conduct.
Contact Eric Christopher Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org