Tensions mount between Miller and Treadwell at GOP candidates forum

Except for a few heated exchanges between Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell, which spilled over onto twitter (see below), the GOP Senate candidates pretty much stuck to their already-public statements on women’s rights and gay marriage at the “social issues” forum on Monday afternoon. The forum was sponsored by the Alaska Family Action, the political arm of the Alaska Family Council.

In advance of the event, the candidates filled out a survey that outlined their position on social issues. All of them are against gay marriage and all of them are pro-life and want to see abortion outlawed in most cases. And as expected, all of them verbalized support for the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. Treadwell said he was “disgusted” by a bill that both Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski voted to advance in the Senate, which would have undone the Hobby Lobby decision. Both Miller and Treadwell also talked about impeaching “activist” federal judges, a discussion that Sullivan kept out of.

None of these positions are likely to hurt any of the three candidates in the Republican primary. It gets trickier in the general, however. There hasn’t been any recent public polling on these issues, so it’s hard to know for sure where most Alaskans stand. But Begich’s campaign has been going after both Treadwell and Sullivan in online ads, claiming that the both are too extreme for Alaska. Begich has some of the best pollsters in the business, so that’s probably as good of a barometer as anything.

In any case, Sullivan–as the front-runner who has tried to keep these issues on the back burner–had the most to lose on Monday. And though he didn’t exactly win the crowd, he didn’t appear to alienate them much as a block either. Treadwell, who has been polling second, had the most to gain. Since the race began, he’s been going after this block of conservatives, as he did with success in his 2010 lieutenant governor’s race.

However, it’s unclear if going after Miller himself is the best strategy. Political consultant Marc Hellenthal called it a “head scratcher.”

Early in the debate, Miler brought up U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the fact that both his opponents supported her in 2010. Treadwell pounced. “Joe, many people looked at your record, looked at Lisa Murkowski’s record and chose,” he said.

He also said that Miller isn’t the “litmus test of conservatism in this state.” Tell that to Miller supporters. Judging from the vibe and the applause lines, this was Miller’s crowd, however small of a slice of the electorate it is. And though he’s always better at forums and at debates than his reputation would have you believe, he was particularly good on Monday.

Somehow, Miller was able to marry firebrand conservative with compassionate Christian with constitutional scholar, and the crowd ate it up. The loudest applause line of the event went to Miller for going after Treadwell for declining to certify a 2010 citizen initiative that would have outlawed abortion. Treadwell, who as lieutenant governor is charged with such certifications, said that he declined to do so because it wouldn’t pass muster with the courts.

“Joe, you can’t criticize people for following the law. We followed the law,” Treadwell said, in response to Miller’s criticism.

Cue Miller’s red meat retort: “We’ve heard that argument before: I was just following orders. Do you take an oath to Constitution or to Supreme Court, Mead?”

It’s that line that won Krissy Spohn over to Miller’s side. Spohn in an artist who lives in Palmer. She is 23 years old. She’s a Christian conservative first-time voter. Her brother supports Sullivan, and her father supports Miller.

She went to the forum, the first of such events that she has ever gone to, to make up her own mind.

When she walked in the door, she was leaning towards Sullivan, because she thinks he has the best chance to beat Begich. When she walked out, she was leaning toward Miller.

“I was surprised. I knew about him and I knew from other people what he stood for and I knew that I agreed with him. I just didn’t know that he could speak so well,” she said.

She said Miller might have convinced her to vote with her heart and her conscience.

“I know what’s right,” she said.

Here are some tweets from the debate. Sullivan’s campaign didn’t tweet the event.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


13 thoughts on “Tensions mount between Miller and Treadwell at GOP candidates forum

  1. Anonymous

    Their 2010 and 2011 returns clearly say “Counsel” on them. In 2012 it says “Council”.
    They probably changed it after I pointed this little discrepancy out to Minnery.

    This Minnery guy is slippery, ask him about it, see if he squirms a little bit.

  2. admin

    @Catnip. Guidestar (peace be upon it, seriously) got it wrong here. On the group’s 990 (you can create an account to peak), it calls itself “Council.”

  3. grant

    Treadwell’s candidacy leaves a lot to be desired.
    As a fiscal conservative, Treadwell is all talk. He travels on the state dime and collects a state pay check and seldom goes to work.
    As a pro-life candidate, you have to question his sincerity when he has given money to pro-choice advocates in the past.
    I could go on and on. But why waste my time. Alaskans aren’t stupid enough to vote for Treadwell knowing that would give Begich a cake walk to keep the senate seat.

  4. Garand Fellow

    First, thank you for this superior, excellent report. I am sorry that some of the comments here trend toward poor taste.

    I have long found Miller to be the best orator and debater among the three. However, I think Sullivan would be the best senator, and in any event he is the one that can win in November.

    The abortion issue is so interesting. My observation is that as women age they tend to become more right to life, and perhaps it’s similar to some older hunters hanging up their guns and bows. Life becomes more precious perhaps. An added feature of this issue then becomes the trend of older people to be reliable voters.

    However, there are more complications. One is that many if not most Republican men, when speaking out of earshot of their wives, favor aborting some combination of bastards, children of illegals, inner city people who have been on the dole for generations, and mentally deficient people who will never be able to care for themselves. If a pollster could only ask, ” If the Pope, with all his gold, won’t pay for raising these babies would you consider state-approved, if not state-funded abortion?” But then, fellows might not trust a pollster, or they might not be alone when answering the pollster’s call. I seldom if ever answer a pollster honestly.

    Right now, abortion is the best issue to insure that a Republican can win a primary and go on to lose the general election. It is an interesting issue.

  5. moderate Republican

    Wow, to think EVERY Republican in Alaska is a brain dead redneck clutching his gun and bible?

    Lead with MEAD, the only statesman running for the Senate.

    We all learned Joe Miller is a carpetbagger from the lower 48, living off federal and state welfare in 2010. Dan, well does anyone know Dan? Voting for Dan seems like voting for Mt. McKinley instead of Mt. Denali.

  6. Milton Friedman

    Very good report Amanda. Thank you.

    It is unfortunate that some ADN com mentors have stemmed to wander over to your site now. These two comments below are revolting.

  7. George R. Nancy

    Dan need to stop slurping out all of Rove’s butt-hole juices. It’s just getting to be sickening to watch him try and wear freshly bought camouflage from Cabela’s and then pass himself off as a Alaskan. Not only does he say he’s Alaskan, but a conservative one to boot – seriously? Dan couldn’t answer a single friggen question on Abortion. What, life’s conditional to him – he’s not pro-life at all – it’s either a human life, or it isn’t. Oh well, it’s alright to kill if it was created by 2nd cousin’s getting it on? We wouldn’t even exist as a race if it we’re for second cousin lovin’! C’mon Dan, get real. You’re the wanna be version of Lisa, but at least she believes in her own terrible judgment, you’re is acquired through pollin!

    Well pucker up buttercup cause the NRSC’s about to descend and you gotta lotta sucking up to do

    *ssllllllurrrrrrrr – PA*

  8. Northern observer

    Nice report. Are other reporters attending these events even? There seems to be lttle credible reporting beyond your posts in this blog.
    There are two men of character in this race: Joe Miller and Dan Sullivan. Then there are two snakes who are very much alike: Begich and Treadwell.
    The more I hear from Treadwell, the more petulant he becomes, the more he sounds like Begich.

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