JUNEAU — Alaska’s largest political party and its candidates for major offices are bracing for a fight this fall when the nation’s eyes turn to the 49th state’s U.S. Senate race.
The state Republican Party travelled to Juneau over the weekend for its biennial state convention, and delegates representing districts statewide seized the opportunity to learn more about the party’s candidates vying for state and federal office.
The event kick-started with Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and wife Sandy opening the mansion for tea with visitors, but the focus quickly shifted afterwards to the elections.
“The road to a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate runs straight through Alaska, and the Democrats know it,” said Dan Sullivan, a candidate for the Republican nomination.
Sullivan, a former state Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources commissioner, is running against current Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Republican nominee Joe Miller.
Making their case
Sullivan’s pitch to the Republican movers and shakers was one about curtailing federal overreach and cultivating a climate that is development friendly toward Alaska’s natural resources.
It’s for that reason, he said, he would seek a seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“There is an overregulation of Alaska and America in every single sector,” Sullivan said.
Treadwell focused on similar issues and also said he would want to be on the public works committee.
“That’s where we need to be to cut back the (Environmental Protection Agency),” Treadwell said.
But rather than focusing on energy development, Treadwell is seeking budgetary reform on the federal level.
“I will not vote to expand our country’s debt unless we also have a vote to have a balanced budget,” he told the audience. “We’re spending too much, and printing too much.”
Miller won the 2010 Republican primary against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but she then mounted a successful write-in campaign to win in the general election — a fact Miller remembers very well.
The convention hall went quite after Miller was the only one of the three to say he would not commit to supporting the Republican nominee if he fails to win the primary. He said it’s because the other candidates for Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s seat didn’t support him during Murkowski’s write-in campaign.
“Without that baseline of trust, I cannot make such a commitment,” he said.
His message to the convention was one of dire need for a new direction.
He urged the party to embrace its conservative core, rather than try and compromise.
“I don’t think this country — if it continues the way it’s going — will be around much longer,” Miller said. “We are moving in a direction opposite our foundation. We need to embrace the platform.”
He attributed much of the blame for the federal government’s growth at the feet of his own party.
For the state’s top elected Republican, Gov. Parnell said his next four years would be focused on the same issues recently addressed by the Legislature.
Those are getting the gasline built and ensuring the comprehensive education reform bill produces results for Alaskan children, he said.
“Our administration is going to build this gasline. There’s no doubt about that,” Parnell said, adding that the global economics are encouraging for the project.
“It’s not just a dream,” he continued. “You’ve got companies laying down money to go design a project.”