By Justin Sink
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) announced Friday that he plans to seek reelection next year, ending speculation that he could challenge first-term Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichSenate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (D-Alaska) in his 2014 reelection bid.
"But I felt I could be more effective for Alaskans as their governor at this point in time and in the years ahead, rather than pursuing that," he said.
Parnell's exit from the race could buoy the prospects of fellow Republicans Joe Miller, the Tea Party attorney who beat incumbent Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Alaska) in the 2010 GOP primary, forcing Murkowski to mount an ultimately successful write-in campaign, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Both have said they have interest in pursuing the Senate seat.
Ultimately, however, the biggest benefactor of Parnell's decision not to run will likely be Begich. A February survey from Public Policy Polling showed Begich leading Miller, 58-30 percent, in a hypothetical head-to-head race, and trouncing Treadwell, 47-39 percent. Begich held similar leads over Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (47-41 percent) and Palin (54-38 percent).
But Begich polled at a dead heat in a matchup with Parnell, with the pair each earning 48 percent of Alaska voters. The race would have represented a prime pick-up opportunity for Republicans in their midterm quest to take back the Senate.
The same poll found that Parnell will likely coast to reelection as governor. He lead from anywhere between 9 and 26 percentage points against potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates.