Most Fascinating Races of 2014: Alaska Senate

Begich is vulnerable in 2014. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There is so much to like about the 2014 Alaska Senate race, starting with the fact that there is a competitive race there at all.

In 2008, Mark Begich became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alaska since 1974. Without that upset victory over an incumbent Republican senator — who was convicted on corruption charges, which would later be thrown out, a week before the election — it’s highly unlikely Democrats would be competing in this solidly Republican state.

Since entering the Senate, Begich, a former Anchorage mayor, has struck an independent pitch and continues to highlight his focus on Alaska issues, even when they swim upstream from the administration’s priorities. Whether that’s enough to withstand ties to an unpopular president will rely in part on the quality of opponent the GOP nominates from three contenders in the Aug. 19 primary.

Unlike most other Republican Senate primaries, this one isn’t ideological — at least not between the top two contenders. But with eight months to go, it's also wide open.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell likes to highlight his Alaska roots, but his 2013 fundraising underwhelmed. Former Bush appointee Dan Sullivan claims D.C. connections, but as a first-time candidate he’s not well known in Alaska. Even folks who think they know him may be confused, because Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is also running statewide next year.

Waiting to pounce is Joe Miller, the tea party favorite best known for fumbling the Republican nomination in 2010 and allowing GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski to win re-election as a write-in candidate.

The race is rated a Tossup/Tilt-Democratic by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Editor's note: Not all congressional races are created equal, and Roll Call's politics desk admits to playing favorites. So in the spirit of the holidays, these are a few of our favorite things (races) to cover this cycle. We're shining a spotlight on our 12 most fascinating races through the new year — in no particular order. Happy holidays from @RollCallPols!

Check out more fascinating races of 2014: California’s 31st District, California’s 17th District, Illinois’ 13th DistrictMississippi Senate, West Virginia's 2nd District and Arizona's 2nd District.