Dan Sullivan wins Alaska Senate primary

Dan Sullivan, former Alaska attorney general and director of natural resources, won the Republican Senate primary in Alaska yesterday. He will face incumbent Mark Begich in November.

Alaska is a Republican state, but Begich is an excellent politician and won’t be easy to defeat. Indeed, Begich leads Sullivan by 2.8 points in the Real Clear Politics average. Perhaps, this small gap will disappear now that Sullivan is the nominee.

Sullivan survived a tough primary in which he was opposed by Joe Miller, the Tea Party favorite whom the Republicans nominated four years ago, and Mead Treadwell, the Lt. Governor who had considerable conservative support. In the end, Sullivan captured 40 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Miller and 25 percent for Treadwell.

Sullivan had the support of the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, and The Club for Growth. Some viewed his outside support as evidence that he is insufficiently conservative. My impression, however, is that most of the outside support was based on perceptions of electability.

The Democrats seemed to share this perception. According to John Fund (and I’ve heard this from other sources too), their activists tried to tilt the campaign in favor of Miller and against Sullivan. Compared to Miller, who lost as the Republican Senate nominee in 2010, it seems clear that Sullivan is more electable.

A major attack on Sullivan during the primary was that he’s a newcomer to Alaska. The Begich campaign has already sounded this theme. Some of the attacks have understated Sullivan’s connection with Alaska.

Sullivan was born in Ohio and attended Harvard College and Georgetown Law School. He joined the Marines in 1993 and went to Alaska with his battalion. He became an Alaska resident in 1997 when he left active duty in the Marines.

Since then, the Marines have called up Sullivan several times, including a tour in Afghanistan. He also served in the Bush administration, first as head of the International Economics Directorate of the National Economic Council and National Security Council staffs, and second as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs.

Sullivan’s military service and his jobs in the Bush administration have taken him outside of Alaska. Some of the attacks on Sullivan as, in effect, a carpetbagger, have refused to count this time in computing his years in Alaska.

This seems unfair to me. Sullivan has been an Alaskan for nearly 20 years and has served the state in two key posts, in addition to serving in the military and the national government.

In any event, Sullivan is vastly preferable to Begich who votes with President Obama 96 percent of the time. With Joe Miller making it clear he won’t run as a write-in candidate, the choice now is between Sullivan and Begich. Control of the Senate may hinge on that choice.

You can help Sullivan by contributing here. I just did.

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