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In Alaska, tea party try for Senate seat falters

August 20, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A tea party attempt to overcome a mainstream Republican came up short in Alaska as a former state attorney general became his party’s candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the fall.

Dan Sullivan on Tuesday night bested tea party favorite Joe Miller, who made a late push reminiscent to his 2010 primary upset of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Miller ultimately lost in the general election.

Alaska is one of the prime targets for Republicans looking to capture six seats now held by Democrats and take control of the Senate.

Their odds of taking the seat now seem improved since voters in general elections tend to favor mainstream candidates over those backed by the ultra-conservative tea party.

Sullivan, who also had the support of Karl Rove and groups like Club for Growth, was considered the front-runner early on in part due to his fundraising prowess, which has rivaled that of Begich. Roughly $4 million in attacks have been run against Sullivan by a pro-Begich supporters.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, a paid contributor for Fox News who has little to do with state-level politics since appointing Sullivan attorney general and resigning in 2009, re-emerged to support an oil tax referendum that also was on the ballot — if successful, it would restore the tax system she championed as governor — and to endorse Miller.

Miller, who spent the campaign painting his opponents as “establishment candidates,” said in the waning days of the race that he would support the eventual nominee. That spoke to the state Republican’s desire for the party to unite in the cause of defeating Begich and of avoiding a repeat of the divisive 2010 race.

Another western state, Wyoming, also held its primary election Tuesday, as U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis defeated lesser-known Republican challengers.