Alaska Republican Senate candidates, Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell, met this week for a debate hosted by the United for Liberty – Alaska/Conservative Patriots Group. Libertarian Mark Fish also met at the Wilda Marston Theater in Anchorage, Alaska, where roughly 200 people were in attendance. However, Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan was a no-show, leaving unanswered the recent questions raised over his position on climate change.
Following the debate, Joe Miller won the straw poll conducted by the debate sponsors, which was the second straw poll win for Miller in less than a week. In Wasilla last Saturday, during the inaugural convention of the Alaska Republican Assembly, Miller easily won the convention’s U.S. Senate straw poll with a whopping 76 percent of the vote.
The candidates traded blows on issues such as immigration, same-sex marriage and climate change. Miller has been hammering his opponents on their positions regarding climate change. The Alaska Dispatch recently ran a puff-piece story that accused Miller of “trying once again to carve out the far-right territory as a climate change denier, though without directly saying so.”
During the debate, Treadwell affirmed his belief in man-made climate change, otherwise known as global warming or whatever name they have decided to call it this week. Sullivan, who didn’t show up to clarify his position, is trying to straddle the middle ground, claiming there is no consensus on the issue. Sullivan enjoys the endorsement of The Club for Growth, a group that would no doubt oppose climate change legislation. Still, Sullivan has made repeated statements in the past that suggest a flip-flop on the issue.
At a December 2007 conference in Washington, D.C., Sullivan said “our shared concern over the global environment and climate change” was a significant aspect to the Bush administration’s energy policy. At the Scandinavian Renewable Energy Forum in October, 2008, Sullivan said “our energy challenges and climate change challenges stem primarily from a common source — an overreliance on hydrocarbons as the world’s primary form of energy.”
Sullivan is the perceived front-runner in the race and is out-raising his Republican primary opponents. But according to both incumbent Senator Mark Begich, as well as senior political analyst of PPD, Richard D. Baris, pundits are almost certainly underestimating Miller.
“Aside from the fact pundits are referencing polling data far too much in a state that is notoriously difficult to poll, I took a look at this back in January,” Baris said. “And despite what the talking heads say, when you actually look at the data you can observe a very real, very clear path to victory for Mr. Miller.” In the January article he referenced, Baris wrote of the possibility that a “reverse vote-splitting phenomena” could sink the two Establishment candidates, leaving an energized grassroots support base strong enough to earn Miller the win.
“The straw poll results, now, provide more evidence that Miller has the grassroots momentum,” Baris added. The Alaska Republican primary is rated a “Toss-Up” on PPD’s 2014 Senate Map.
“Joe’s second straw poll win in less than a week reflects the growing momentum the campaign has been seeing on the ground,” said spokesman Randy DeSoto. “Joe turned in a strong performance in the debate, proving he is the true conservative/reform candidate and is the right choice to represent the Republican Party against Senator Begich in the fall.”