Alaska Republican Sees Advantage as First-Time Candidate (Video)

Sullivan visited Roll Call in Washington, D.C., June 4. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The candidate: Dan Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve; formerly commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, state attorney general and George W. Bush appointee. The member: Sullivan is running in the Republican primary to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. The state: Begich, just the seventh senator in Alaska history, in 2008 became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alaska since 1974. In 2012, President Barack Obama improved his performance from 2008, but still took just 41 percent. The race is rated Tossup/Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. The candidate’s team: Hans Kaiser of Moore Information (polling); FP1 Strategies (media); Arena Communications (direct mail); Michael Dubke of the Black Rock Group (general consultant); Ben Sparks (campaign manager).

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Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan, a first-time candidate for elected office, says his dearth of experience on the trail will help — not hurt — his bid for Alaska’s Senate seat in this climate of unhappiness with Congress.  

Sullivan was appointed to both prominent statewide positions he's held, Alaska's attorney general and commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, and therefore lacks the campaign experience useful when vying for statewide office — particularly against an experienced incumbent.  

Still, as the outsider with support from across the Republican spectrum, Sullivan is the front-runner in the Aug. 19 primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.  

“I think not running, particularly in this year, is actually an advantage,” he said Wednesday in an interview with CQ Roll Call.  

In the interview, Sullivan highlighted his work to combat Alaska’s high domestic violence and sexual assault rates, which he calls "probably the biggest social problem ... that we have in Alaska.” He also described himself as a doer and a fighter, especially in combating policies of the Obama administration.  

With nearly $2 million in cash on hand by the end of March, Sullivan has significantly out-raised the other two Republicans seeking the nomination.  

Asked about his ongoing primary, Sullivan said he's tried to unite the party and criticized other Republicans in the race for “saying we shouldn’t be doing a smash-up derby but then doing a smash-up derby.” The remark is likely a swipe at Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who said he wanted to avoid a “demolition derby” in the primary when he announced his candidacy.  

Sullivan will be one of two Dan Sullivans on the primary ballot. But he thinks by August voters will be able to distinguish him from the Anchorage mayor of the same name who is running for lieutenant governor.  

“There’s different nicknames” to lessen the confusion, he said, listing his own as Marine Dan, Afghan Dan and DNR Dan.  

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