The Primary Primer: 5 Races To Watch In Alaska And Wyoming

Published: August 19, 2014

The Primary Primer: 5 Races To Watch In Alaska And Wyoming, WHO’S ON TS-EX- BALLOT? On Tuesday, voters cast ballots in Alaska and Wyoming. The marquee race to watch is a three-way bitter GOP Senate primary in our nation’s 49th state. Alaskan voters will decide between the establishment front-runner, a tea partier with Sarah Palin’s backing, and Alaska’s lieutenant governor. Also in the state, a young upstart in an Alaskan primary tries to take on the longest-serving Republican in the House and there’s a contentious ballot measure. In Wyoming, there’s a Senate primary race that may be lower profile since Liz Cheney dropped out, but there’s a gubernatorial primary, and much more.

TS-EX- FROZEN PRIMARY: Alaska’s Republican Senate primary is not only one of the most closely watched and contentious this cycle, it will also select the Republican nominee to face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in November. WHY IT MATTERS: This race could decide control of the Senate and could be the tightest this cycle. There are three viable contenders and with little polling, Dan Sullivan may be the favored front-runner, but it’s still anybody’s game. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shook up the race Friday by backing tea party favorite, attorney Joe Miller. She backed him in 2010, but it’s different this time around as Sullivan was her attorney general appointee in 2009. Before his time as Alaska’s attorney general, Sullivan worked as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves, is also an attorney and the former natural resources commissioner in the state. The front-runner has been dogged by his Ohio upbringing and his critics have called him a carpetbagger, although he’s been here since 1997 (leaving once for seven years to work in Washington, D.C.) and neither of his opponents were born in the 49th state, unlike Begich. Miller moved just two years before in 1995 while Treadwell has been in the state 40 years. He’s up against Miller, who was the 2010 GOP nominee when he beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a primary shocker. He lost when Murkowski ran a successful write-in campaign. Miller had spooked the GOP for awhile, refusing to rule out an independent bid if he didn’t win on Tuesday, but last week he said he would back one of his Republican rivals if he loses the primary. The third candidate is Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell who has been going door to door to try and sway voters. Sullivan, who is backed by establishment figures like Karl Rove, has bested his rivals in fundraising raising $4 million to Treadwell’s $1.2 million and Miller’s less than $328,000. He’s also run television ads for months and has a more sophisticated get-out-the vote operation, which includes paid aides with national political experience on top of local volunteers. But, Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll and front-runner status may mean nothing when it comes to this Alaska brawl. Another possible factor: there are two Dan Sullivans on today’s ballot. Yes, you read that right. There’s the Dan Sullivan running for Senate and then the Dan Sullivan, currently the mayor of Anchorage who is running for lieutenant governor. Sullivan’s Senate ads have had to waste precious seconds clarifying, but it is still confusing. Both are Republicans and this could play a complicating role today, but it’s hard to tell now what that could be. The victor will not only face Begich, but also at least four other minor party candidates. Both the Libertarian and Alaskan Independence Party candidates have contested primaries and will be on the ballot in November, likely a help to Begich, who face no serious primary challenger Tuesday.

AN INCUMBENT CHALLENGE IN WYOMING: Gov. Matt Mead is seeking a second term, but he has two Republican challengers in today’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Wyoming. WHY IT MATTERS: Mead is facing off against state superintendent of public instruction and tea party favorite Cindy Hill and Dr. Taylor Haynes, a rancher and retired urologist. Haynes has called for the removal of federal control from all land in the state. Mead has run against federal overreach in Wyoming and opposition to Obamacare, while Hill’s candidacy is more of a personal cause and a hint at how contentious this primary has become. Her run is inspired by legislation Mead signed last year which removed her as the head of the state Department of Education after a series of problems. The Wyoming Supreme Court reversed her removal this year. The victor on Tuesday will face Pete Gosar, the former Wyoming Democratic Party chairman, but the GOP winner is the likely general election victor as well because a Democrat hasn’t held a statewide office in Wyoming in almost four years. Plus the GOP has over three times as many registered Republicans in the state. Mead is expected to win, but Hill may cut into his margin of victory more than an incumbent would like.


ALASKA’S AT-LARGE HOUSE SEAT: In Alaska, everyone knows Rep. Don Young. He’s Alaska’s only member of the U.S. House and at 81 years old is currently the longest-serving Republican in the House. The newly engaged Young has been rebuked for violating House ethics rules, but is expected to easily advance over little-known GOP primary challengers Tuesday on his way to a 22nd term. There is a Democratic primary and 29-year-old Ivy-League educated Forrest Dunbar is the favorite and has the backing of the state Democratic party. He faces perennial candidate Frank Vondersaar. Dunbar is a judge advocate general in the Alaska Army National Guard. He interned for then-Sen. Frank Murkowski when he was 17, spent two years in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan, and has degrees from Yale Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Young is still heavily favored in November and he has served in Congress longer than Dunbar has been alive. Dunbar runs on the slogan “Run, Forrest, Run” and argues the long-serving Young is no longer effective. Along with better care for veterans, Dunbar wants to make same-sex marriage legal in the 49th state. Young has raised over $631,000 to Dunbar’s less than $94,000.


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