Senate candidates stump in Anchorage, Fairbanks, in final push

Alaska's two major U.S. Senate candidates each began their final push Saturday, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich hosting a few dozen supporters for a rally at an Anchorage union hall, while Republican challenger Dan Sullivan packed a Fairbanks Chrysler dealership with hundreds for an appearance with Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and tea party favorite.

The contrast in rallying cries was stark. In Fairbanks, Cruz blasted the status quo in Washington, D.C., and pushed for changes as radical as abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, while in Anchorage, Begich spoke about the need for cooperation and setting aside partisan labels.

The underlying message in both places, however, was identical: Get out and vote, and get your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same.

"This election is going to come down to people," Begich told his crowd.

With millions of dollars spent by each side in the Senate race to persuade people to support one candidate or the other, the campaigns have now shifted their focus to turnout.

Begich and the Democratic Party have a roughly tenfold advantage in paid staff on the ground in Alaska, and their schedule for the next few days doesn't include any particularly flashy events or guests -- Begich is campaigning in the Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Fairbanks, while his wife and mother make stops in rural Alaska.

Sullivan's campaign, meanwhile, is relying on Cruz and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who's holding a rally Monday in Anchorage with Sullivan and Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.


The visit from Cruz, who's stumped around the country for Republican Senate candidates, helps Sullivan's campaign to stoke its conservative base and even generate enthusiasm among Libertarians, whom Cruz mentioned in a video he posted shortly after his arrival in Alaska.

Saturday's event in Fairbanks was a showcase for that strategy.

"In three days, we're going to retake the U.S. Senate and retire Harry Reid as majority leader," Cruz said to sustained applause from the Chrysler showroom, telling the crowd that Begich's support for Reid amounts to "a vote that says, 'I hate oil.'"

"Let me tell you, in the fight for this country, for the direction of this country, Alaska is ground zero," Cruz said.

At his own rally, Begich called Cruz "the king of the government shutdown," echoing a line he used in a debate on Thursday.

Still gesturing energetically at the tail end of a grueling campaign, Begich talked about his support for raising the minimum wage, told a couple of stories, then told his audience not to trust Outside pundits and pollsters who discount his chances of winning in part because of the state's Republican tilt.

"We're going to show those pundits what on Nov. 4?" Begich asked, to cheers. "Tonight, today, tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday -- this is our moment."

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.