08/19/2014 09:12 am ET Updated Aug 19, 2014

Last Competitive Republican Senate Primary Will Decide Mark Begich Opponent


WASHINGTON -- As the midterm elections primary season winds down, the focus turns to Alaska, where voters on Tuesday will decide the last competitive Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan is the frontrunner to challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) in November -- though Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and tea party favorite and attorney Joe Miller haven't eased Sullivan's path. (Sullivan the Senate candidate is not to be confused with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who will be on Tuesday's primary ballot for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination.)

Miller is remembered for initially beating Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010's GOP primary, though she then conducted a successful write-in campaign to win the general election. Sullivan is campaigning as the candidate who has the best shot at beating Begich in November. Treadwell has emphasized his deep ties to the state, where he has lived for 40 years, in contrast to Sullivan, who moved back to the state in 2009 after serving in President George W. Bush's administration, and with the Marines abroad.

While former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has endorsed Miller -- who called her the Alaskan who inspires him the most -- Sullivan has the backing of the conservative Club for Growth and Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC.

Begich has already been campaigning as if Sullivan is his opponent. In one television spot, he mocked Sullivan for taping an ad from the top of a civic and convention center in Anchorage for which Begich helped secure funds. The senator hasn't been demure about his willingness to bring federal spending back to Alaska, in the hopes of appealing to the popular legacies of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R) and Rep. Don Young (R).

The Alaska Senate race also has been defined, in part, by the super PACs working to boost the candidates on both sides. A pro-Sullivan super PAC, Alaska's Energy-America's Values, has raised the vast majority of its funds from Sullivan's Ohio-based family. Meanwhile, a super PAC supporting Begich, Put Alaska First, has derived most of its funding from Senate Majority PAC, a national Democratic group working to defend vulnerable incumbents like Begich and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

While Begich hasn't attempted to appeal to progressive voters on issues like gun control and energy, he has worked to play up his support for increasing the minimum wage, contraceptive access and equal pay legislation, as a contrast to his three potential Republican opponents.

HuffPost Pollster, which combines all publicly available polling data, shows both Treadwell and Begich and Sullivan and Begich in close matchups, though Begich has more of a comfortable margin against Miller.

In another of Tuesday's contested races, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) is considered a safe bet for re-election. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), seeking a fourth term, also seems to be secure: When former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Liz withdrew her bid in January, Enzi was left with a substantial war chest and four lesser-known rivals.

The last Republican Senate primary of note will be held Sept. 9 in New Hampshire, where former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) may have a closer race on his hands than he'd like to admit against state Sen. Jim Rubens (R) and former Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.).



Senate Seats Up For Grabs In 2014