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November 4, 2014
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2014 Alaska Senate Race

First-term Senator Mark Begich, former Democratic Mayor of Anchorage, won election to the Senate six years ago against embattled Republican incumbent Ted Stevens.  He received just 48% of the vote that year and likely would not have beaten a scandal-free GOP opponent.  That said, Begich has done a good job of engineering a moderate voting record in this very red state, and while he is quite vulnerable in his first re-election bid, the outcome of the 2014 Alaska senate race may hinge on who Republicans choose to run against him.

Two men are currently favored to contend for that privilege.  Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller are both running.  If you recall, Miller burst onto the scene in 2010 by riding a Tea Party wave to the Republican nomination, defeating sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski.  Unbowed, Murkowski exacted revenge by running, and winning, with a well-funded write-in campaign.  Now, four years later, Miller is competing again, and his staunch Tea Party stances on taxes and the size of government, among other conservative issues, will once again play well in the Alaska senate GOP primary.

However, Lt. Gov. Treadwell hopes Alaskan Republicans will view him as the better choice to challenge Begich.  In 2010, Treadwell teamed up with Governor Sean Parnell after his Republican primary victory, and the pair went on to win the 2010 general election by over 20 percentage points.  This time around, Treadwell looks to earn a ticket to Washington.  His brand of conservatism may not be as staunch as Miller's, but neither does it come in as controversial a persona.

The Alaska Senate Election, 2014 edition, will start out with a slight advantage for Begich if Miller triumphs in the primary.  A Treadwell nomination, on the other hand, will land this race squarely in the toss-up category.  Either way, in a state that gave President Obama just 43% of the vote in 2012 and saw two Republican candidates (Murkowski and Miller) get 75% of the vote in the 2010 Senate race, Begich's designation as one of the most vulnerable senators this cycle is well-deserved.

There is a 500-lb gorilla in the room with this race.  That is, of course, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's potential run for this Senate seat.  Although I don't expect her to go for it, a Palin campaign would shake things up drastically.  We'll need to revisit this preview should she enter.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Alaska Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:44am 11/14/13 :: link
Election Projection*
Mark Begich
Weak DEM Hold
*Preliminary projection
2014 Elections on Demand
Projection Scorecard
49   -4
49   +4
28   -1
22   +1
These numbers are preliminary and reflect only races previewed here on EP.
*Both Independent Senators caucus with the Democrats.
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