Alaska governor ends race speculation

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 Begich (D-Alaska) in his 2014 reelection bid.

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Parnell has been governor of the state since July, 2009, when he took over after the resignation of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. He told the Associated Press he seriously weighed a Senate bid, worried the federal government "is in deep need of a different direction."

"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 Murkowski (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.