Sparks fly early in Alaska Senate race

Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) on Wednesday cast his Senate primary opponent Joe Miller as someone who can “scare” voters away from the GOP. [WATCH VIDEO]

Treadwell, who announced his Senate candidacy earlier this week, told The Hill he’s a safe alternative to Miller, the 2010 Republican nominee, who has filed to run again. 

“I believe I don't scare people. Joe does sometimes,” Treadwell said in a phone call from Juneau.

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Treadwell emphasized his ability to work with others, an implicit contrast with Miller’s iconoclastic reputation. He described himself as the “credible conservative candidate to challenge” incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

“Philosophically, I'm a very strong proponent of personal liberties, protecting our constitution, protecting life, and I believe I give people a serious option who care about those issues,” he said. 

“I'm certainly more credible as a candidate — our election record shows it.”

The lieutenant governor is the early favorite to win the primary at this point — he led Miller by 45 to 26 percent in an early May survey from GOP-affiliated Harper Polling. 

Forty-nine percent of Republicans held an unfavorable view of Miller in the poll.

But Miller has some loyal Tea Party supporters and more than $400,000 in the bank, enough to do some damage ahead of the August 2014 primary. 

Miller described Treadwell as a "Rockefeller Republican” who had a different “perception about government, about the role of the grassroots in American politics.” 

The comment appeared aimed at portraying Treadwell as little different than Begich, who recently said he was closer to being a Rockefeller Republican than a Pelosi Democrat.

Miller declined to directly respond to Treadwell’s criticisms.

“I'm not real interested in responding to tit-for-tat. That doesn't get anyone ahead. The issues we raised in 2010 were real issues,” he said. 

“Some of the things I warned about are scary. The federal government has put us in a pretty scary predicament … [but] it's ultimately not a message of doom and gloom, it's a message of hope.”

Miller pulled off a surprise primary win over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2010. But Murkowski, running as a write-in candidate, defeated Miller in the general election.

Miller's 2010 campaign generated controversy when campaign security guards detained and handcuffed a reporter trying to talk to him at a public forum October 2010. He also called for phasing out Medicare and privatizing Social Security during his campaign.

Many national Republicans hoped Miller wouldn’t run again. 

Miller said he was “unlikely to pull out of the race,” but admitted that he had some work to do to repair his image with Alaska voters. 

“I know there is some concern out there about me. That's fine. We have a few months — campaigns don't normally start until close to the primary. We've got a lot of time to change a lot of attitudes,” Miller said. 

Treadwell is working hard to appeal to all strains of the party: Libertarian-leaning voters and Tea Party backers as well as establishment Republicans.

“There are many people supporting us who were strong Murkowski supporters. There are those backing us who were Joe Miller supporters. This is not a rerun of the Murkowski-Miller race.”

Miller’s 2010 Senate primary win was driven in part by a late endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a longtime foe of the Murkowski family. 

She hasn’t officially ruled out running for the Senate, though her recent return to Fox News, as a contributor, is the latest sign she won’t run.

Miller wouldn’t say whether he had discussed the race with Palin.

“I have not asked for her endorsement at this point, but would welcome it if she decided to give it,” he said.

Treadwell said he had been in contact with those close to Palin to let them know he was running — but didn’t expect her to get involved in the race.

“She hasn't gotten involved very much in Alaska races lately. I certainly wish her well,” he said. “I believe we have a good relationship. Her endorsement is not something we've discussed as of yet.”

Murkowski encouraged Treadwell to run and described him as the “front-runner,” but has said she won’t endorse in the race.

One area of disagreement between her and Treadwell: gay marriage. Murkowski came out in support of allowing same-sex marriage Wednesday morning. Treadwell said he hadn’t seen Murkowski’s statement, but gave a terse description of his own views.

“I'm sworn to uphold the constitution, which says marriage is between a man and a woman. And those are my views,” he said. 

“I think it would be bad to drive people out of the party for one particular view … on Sen. Murkowski's views, I haven't talked with her about that. She's a very strong member of the Republican Party on many different issues.”

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