Former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan captured the Republican nomination in the GOP Senate primary Tuesday, defeating Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. Sullivan was considered the Republican establishment favorite; his campaign contributors included former President George W. Bush.
Sullivan now faces incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich on the ballot in November.
The U.S. Senate campaign in Alaska may play an integral role in determining which party controls the Senate after the mid-term elections; Republicans need to pick up six seats in November to regain control. Since Begich represents a traditionally Republican state, the campaign there, which political observers view as very close, will likely play an important role in Republicans’ efforts to regain Senate control.
“I look forward to painting a clear contrast between Mark Begich’s inability to move our state forward and my vision for a brighter and better Alaska,” Sullivan said in a statement following the primary election, reported Reuters.
Begich and Sullivan had exchanged political punches before Tuesday’s primary that showed reproductive rights would be a major campaign issue.
Prior to the primary election, Begich released an ad saying that Sullivan has “positions on women’s health that are truly frightening.” The ad points to Sullivan’s opposition to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood and companies denying birth control coverage to employees through their health insurance plans.
The ad cites Sullivan’s answers to Alaska Family Action’s candidate survey. Among the responses given by Sullivan was his support for banning abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. Senate Republicans introduced legislation in May that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, and are reportedly using the issue to strategically target vulnerable Senate Democrats.
Sullivan responded with his own ad calling Begich’s claims “flat out lies.” The ad also charges that Barack Obama’s “political machine” and Begich’s “liberal Washington friends” are the driving force behind his campaign.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s political arm, is purchasing online ads, as part of a $65,000 ad campaign in the state, to target Sullivan for his record on reproductive health. “Dan Sullivan has been slippery on some of his positions, so we want to make sure that when people are looking at this race … they have the information readily available from somebody they trust to give it to them,” Dawn Laguens, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told the National Journal.
Begich has built a record of supporting reproductive rights in his first term in the Senate after defeating embattled former senator Ted Stevens (R). The Begich campaign is also drawing a broader distinction between his record on women’s rights and his Republican rival’s.
While Begich touts his support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act, Sullivan has avoided answering questions on his position on either pieces of legislation. Begich released an ad in April saying that Sullivan was on the wrong side of women’s issues, including fair pay.
The latest polling shows Begich with a four-point lead over Sullivan.
CORRECTION: The previous image attached to this article included the other Alaskan politician named Dan Sullivan, who is the mayor of Anchorage and is running for lieutenant governor in the 2014 election. We regret the error.