JUNEAU — Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Tuesday announced plans to seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mark Begich, saying Alaska would be better served with Republicans in charge.
As long as Democrats control the Senate, Treadwell said serious consideration will never be given to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, something Alaska political leaders — including Begich — support.
He said Alaskans also would be better served with Sen. Lisa Murkowski in charge of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski, Alaska’s senior senator, is currently the ranking member.
Treadwell, a former chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said he thinks Alaskans want a “unified delegation.” Begich is the three-member delegation’s lone Democrat.
“It’s not just money out of Washington” that’s important for Alaska, Treadwell said. “It’s the power out of Washington and the self-determination we thought we got with statehood that I’m not hearing from Mark Begich and I don’t think we’re hearing from a Senate that is controlled by Democrats, that doesn’t believe in state’s rights.
Treadwell, 57, becomes the second major Republican candidate to announce plans to run next year for a seat that Republicans see as critical to their hopes of regaining control of the Senate. Joe Miller, a tea party favorite during his unsuccessful 2010 challenge to Murkowski, announced last month.
Treadwell, in his announcement statement, said his campaign will focus on three principles: fighting to reverse the Obama administration’s “relentless assault” on families and freedoms, seeking “fiscal sanity” in Washington and fighting for Alaska.
In an interview, he said he is a conservative and privacy advocate who believes government’s “first job is to protect liberty.”
Begich defeated then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens to win the seat in 2008, shortly after Stevens was convicted on corruption charges. A judge later tossed the conviction due to prosecutorial errors, and “all of the reason why he was beaten disappeared,” Treadwell said.
“Let’s make sure we have the next election that doesn’t turn on interference by the Justice Department,” he said.
Treadwell figures he will have to raise “several” million dollars to win the seat, something he believes he can do. Begich ended the latest fundraising period with $1.5 million on hand, while Miller had about $425,000 available, left over from his prior run.
Treadwell said he has the “practical background and philosophical integrity” to appeal to various elements of the state Republican party, libertarians and those who believe government has a role in promoting commerce.
“I’ll put my record up against anybody,” he said.
Treadwell, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2010, said he will serve out the remainder of his term.
He said there are a number of things he wants to continue to work on, including making Alaska elections more accessible to voters overseas and in rural parts of the state, pushing for greater progress to ensure safe shipping in the Arctic and continuing to work on priorities of Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration, such as getting a deal on a natural gas pipeline, getting more oil through the trans-Alaska pipeline and working to combat domestic violence.
“I won’t be a no-show on those issues,” he said.