In front of a crowd of about 60, former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan at long last announced that he’s running for U.S. Senate, a fact that took few by surprise. For months, rumors have been swirling about his impending run.
Sullivan will be taking on Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller in the Republican primary. The victor will then go on to try to beat Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. Miller issued a press release welcoming the competition and Sullivan into the race. Shortly after his speech, Alaska’s Democratic Party sent out a release trashing Sullivan, calling him an “establishment” candidate who has the “stamp of approval from Washington insiders.”
At the announcement, Sullivan billed himself as the candidate who was both experienced and optimistic. A Marine and the tough “fighter” who can beat U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the general election. The one who sees Alaska’s future as one that will help the rest of the country grow. The father of three young girls and the husband who is in love with his Athabascan wife. The one who can be both simultaneously detached and engaged enough to display to the audience that illusive quality best known as “charm.”
During his speech, Sullivan touched on the general themes of this campaign, mostly about how the state can take the lead on what he called the country’s “energy renaissance,” but didn’t get specific. How would he help try to save the government from impending financial collapse? What about the shutdown? Where does he stand on the hot button social issues? How is he different from his Republican rivals?
The answers have to wait for another day. For all the months that Sullivan had to plan for the announcement, for all of his supposed “establishment” credentials — including being a former U.S. assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush — apparently no planning went into answering media questions following his speech.
“There’s plenty of time to answering questions,” he said. “You know me,” he told members of the media. “I’ll answer your questions,” before walking away to talk to people in the crowd.
It’s true that since Sullivan took the job as attorney general in 2010, and then later as DNR commissioner, he’s been generally available to the media. The fact that he wasn’t on what could be the biggest day of his political career was puzzling.
Indeed, there’s time. The primary election is more than 9 months away. But one of the biggest issues for Sullivan will be differentiating himself from Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor. It also doesn’t help that there’s another Dan Sullivan in Arkansas who is also running for U.S. Senate against a Democratic incumbent, a state whose postal code often gets confused with Alaska’s.
When Bill Clinton was running for president, some of his mail ended up at the post office in Hope, Alaska instead of his hometown in Arkansas.
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