The food was lousy – greasy, boney, and ungainly – but the long awaited first fundraiser for former Alaska DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan’s run for U.S. Senate, held on Wednesday night at Ruby’s in midtown Anchorage, was a success. According to the campaign, the evening’s spoils were more than 25 percent of what his most heavily financed primary challenger, Mead Treadwell, managed to raise in 90 days.
Which would be about $50,000.
Depending on who you ask, somewhere between 70 to 100 people showed and a good many were co-hosts, such as former GOP chair Randy Ruedrich, ENSTAR president Colleen Starring, head of Alaska Gasline Development Authority Dan Fauske, Northrim Bank’s Marc Langland, private equity guy Mark Kroloff, Jim Jansen who owns Lynden Transport, Cook Inlet Tribal Council head Gloria O’Neill and the always aggravating lobbyist Ashley Reed, with whom I’m in a relationship.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan was there and joked about walking away with the evening’s take to use in his own race for lieutenant governor. Whatever you think about the mayor, he can be funny.
Also in attendance: Acting DNR Commish Joe Balash, head of Alaska Housing Finance Corp. Bryan Butcher, Alaska state Sen. Charlie Huggins and his lovely wife Becky, Alaska GOP brain trust Frank McQueary, and Attorney General Mike Geraghty, among others.
A handful of staffers from other campaigns also showed to monitor the event. “Trackers,” they’re called in political circles, and they’re pretty easy to spot. Their presence proved what some in the room were saying: Sullivan’s the candidate that most scares both Mark Begich and Mead Treadwell.
DNR Dan’s obviously got the money behind him, as well as the Republican credentials. But this is his first run at political office, and it sometimes shows. His campaign slogan is “New Energy for Alaska,” (the same slogan Sarah Palin used in her 2006 governor’s race) and his stump speech needs some of that energy. As I wrote before, Sullivan is at heart a Marine, but he also has the illusive quality best known as charm, and there’s a fine line between charm and superciliousness.
Treadwell doesn’t have charm. He does, however, have an awkward, pulling gravitas that can be appealing. Alaskans will accept a lot from their politicians, as long as they feel that you’re talking to them and with them as one of them. Sullivan has some work to do in this area, some are saying.
What Treadwell doesn’t seem to have, however, is a smart campaign. On Wednesday night, a young man from out of state sat in the building’s hallway, outside of the restaurant, taking pictures of those who were leaving. He said his name was Austin and that he was working for Treadwell. Everyone inside knew he was there and what he was doing. It was a horribly demoralizing job.
Some of Sullivan’s staffers went outside the restaurant to offer him food. He didn’t accept, but he looked hungry, and grateful.
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