Thirty percent of Alaska voters went to the polls last night in one of the nation’s last major competitive primaries. There, former Attorney General and Natural Resources Department director Dan Sullivan claimed the Republican senatorial nomination, winning the right to challenge vulnerable first-term incumbent Mark Begich (D). Sullivan took 40 percent of the vote, defeating surprise second-place finisher Joe Miller (32 percent) and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (25 percent).
For the second time in four years, Miller came from nowhere to vastly exceed his polling projection. In 2010, he upset Sen. Lisa Murkowski to win the GOP nomination. This time, he attracted far more votes than his single-digit polling status suggested. Treadwell, the early race leader, lost momentum months ago and never regained strength. Some late polling suggested that he was pulling closer to Sullivan, but that did not prove accurate as he finished behind Miller.
Sullivan now formally faces Sen. Begich, the latter of whom drew 83 percent in his own ADL primary against one Democrat, two Alaska Independent Party members, and three Libertarians. The state has an odd primary law that combines Democratic, AIP, and Libertarian candidates on one “blanket” ballot, while the Republicans vote separately.
With the primary now behind us, the toss-up race between Begich and Sullivan – a campaign that could well decide the Senate majority late on election night in November – officially begins. The race will continue to be hard-fought and tenacious, one both major parties can ill afford to lose if they hope to control the Senate in the new 114th Congress. Campaigning has been hot and heavy for weeks, and will now intensify to a greater degree for the remaining part of the current election cycle.
In the governor’s race, incumbent Sean Parnell easily claimed the Republican nomination, attracting 75.5 percent of the vote against two opponents, Russ Millette the former state Republican Party chairman, and frequent candidate Brad Snowden. The governor advances to the general election against former Alaska Permanent Fund Director Byron Mallett (D), who captured 67 percent in the ADL primary. He is now a heavy favorite to win a second full term after finishing the final two years of former Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) term in office.
At-large Rep. Don Young (R) cruised to renomination for a 22nd term in the House, capturing 74 percent against three Republican opponents. He is a heavy general election favorite against attorney Forrest Dunbar, the new Democratic nominee.
As an aside, it was a good night for both Dan Sullivans. The Anchorage mayor, having the same name as the new US Senate nominee, easily won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
It was a trouble-free night for all of the GOP incumbents in last night’s Equality State primary. Gov. Matt Mead, Sen. Mike Enzi, and at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis all won landslide victories against minor candidates, though the governor fell slightly below 60 percent against two opponents. All will glide through the upcoming general election.
A new Public Policy Polling post-primary survey (Aug. 14-17; 903 registered Kansas voters) produced a surprising result for Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) re-election campaign. With the senator moving forward from a very tepid 48-41 percent Republican primary victory over physician Milton Wolf, a new general opponent is gaining significant momentum – and, it’s not the Democratic nominee.
According to the PPP data, Roberts has a 32-25-23 percent lead over Democrat Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney who had raised only $131,000 through the July 16th pre-primary financial disclosure filing, and Independent Greg Orman, who has attracted more than $671,000 in contributions during the same period. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson draws three percent.
Orman is promoting himself as a true Independent, one not interested in joining the partisan wars in Washington. His issue positions are generally conservative on economic issues, moderate on the social platform, but comes down squarely for speech regulation in regard to campaign finance issues, a subject area that he greatly emphasizes.
The rise of a strong Independent certainly will bring a new light upon this general election campaign.
The same poll also tested the competitive governor’s campaign. In this race, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) still performs poorly but improves upon previously released data. According to the PPP survey, Brownback trails state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) 37-39 percent, with Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr attracting 9 percent. The Umbehr vote is likely a wild card because he is unlikely to fare as well in the election as he does in polling