After months of waiting, Alaska Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2014, in hopes of eventually unseating Democratic incumbent Mark Begich. Now, Treadwell will have to begin the arduous process of fundraising for a national race while preparing for a Republican primary election that will pit him against at least one other former Senate candidate.
Treadwell had formed an exploratory committee in late 2012 to examine the possibility of a Senate candidacy, and since then he's played his cards close, giving little clue about when he'd officially announce a run. Meanwhile, other potential candidates haven't been shy about their own intentions. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced he would remove his own name from the list of possible Senate candidates by running again for governor in 2014. Joe Miller, the 2010 Republican Senate candidate who famously lost to incumbent Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign after beating her in the primary election, has filed federal paperwork declaring him a candidate. Treadwell would face Miller in the primary on Aug. 26, 2014.
Miller said on his own website Tuesday that he welcomes Treadwell to the race, though he also took a stab at both Begich and Treadwell by referencing an interview Begich gave Monday to CNBC where he called himself a "Rockefeller Republican" while distancing himself from the term "Pelosi Democrat." Miller also implied that Treadwell would welcome Begich to "the country club," though it's not clear how he came to that conclusion in the post, which is attributed only to "News Editor" and features quotes from Miller on a site that he operates as publisher.
Others have already stepped up to vie for Treadwell's job, making his official Senate candidacy even less surprising. State Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, announced earlier this month that she will run for lieutenant governor. Meanwhile, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has filed for statewide office, but hasn't specified exactly which office that might be, though Treadwell's vacant seat is a likely contender.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Treadwell said that he waited so long to officially announce his candidacy in part because he was still meeting with state and national funders in order to determine how viable a challenge to Begich might be. "This is not going to be an inexpensive (race)," Treadwell said.
Treadwell said that he is convinced he has the necessary support to challenge Begich in 2014, and he'll likely need it. The election fundraising cycle has already begun, and Begich's 2013 first-quarter Federal Election Commission filings showed that he had about $1.5 million on hand, bringing in $948,000 in the first quarter alone. And Outside influences are likely to play a large role in the upcoming election: Begich has already been the subject of both positive and negative ads sponsored by Outside interest groups.
Treadwell said that his campaign would take such advertisements -- bolstered in part by the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court Decision which allows interest groups to spend unlimited money on campaigns, so long as they do not consult with the candidates themselves -- as a part of the new campaign battlefield.
"We totally understand it's an environment where we can't control it," Treadwell said of such Outside advertising. Treadwell added that although Citizens United might not be the best method of exercising free speech, the decision was ultimately tied to the First Amendment and individual liberties, which he said his campaign will focus on.
In a Tuesday statement, Treadwell said that his campaign would revolve around three things: fiscal restraint, fighting against "the Obama administration's relentless assault on our families and our freedoms," and bringing influence back to Alaska.
Asked to further elaborate on that second talking point, Treadwell cited things like the recent NSA data-farming scandal and the seizure of Associated Press telephone records by the Department of Justice as infringements on Americans' rights. He also advocates for looking again at the Affordable Care Act -- popularly known as "Obamacare" -- which he said is based on "setting up incentives to drive people away from private insurance," and that the current Democrat-controlled Senate "does not want to reconsider any of it."
Treadwell also spoke strongly on decreasing federal involvement in Alaska affairs, and even invoked the specter of former Sen. Ted Stevens, the longtime Alaska lawmaker whom Begich narrowly defeated in 2008 just weeks after Stevens was convicted of making false statements to investigators -- a conviction that was later overturned.
Treadwell said that though the days of earmarks that brought in massive amounts of federal money to Alaska might be over, the state has also lost the power to make decisions for itself, instead becoming beholden to the permitting processes and timelines of federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of the Interior.
"The federal government must deal with Alaska's issues on Alaska's terms. Ted Stevens fought every day to bring power and decision-making home, and so will I," Treadwell said in his statement. Treadwell has already seen the state-side view of that debate, with the Parnell administration frequently filing suit when it feels the federal government is overstepping its bounds. That includes suing over everything from offshore drilling to protection for polar bears.
Treadwell is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Business School, and has a strong background in Arctic policy, including a role as chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, appointed by former President George W. Bush. Treadwell also served as spill response coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. He later served as deputy commissioner of that agency.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com