ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, delivering a victory to the party establishment in the last contested GOP primary for the midterm elections.
Sullivan will now take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in one of the 10 top competitive races that will determine control of the U.S. Senate next year. Begich faced only token opposition in the Democratic primary, and was declared the winner shortly after polls closed.
The GOP nomination battle followed a familiar political narrative this year, pitting establishment and Tea Party Republicans against each other in a race heavily influenced by outside forces and special interest money.
Sullivan, a former state attorney general and Marine officer, beat Joe Miller, a Tea Party favorite who was endorsed by former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the final days of the race.
Sullivan enjoyed support from national Republicans and establishment super PACS, such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads. He has also been endorsed by the anti-tax Club for Growth and raised the most money. Miller is best known for his upset of GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Senate GOP primary, but she went on to defeat Miller in a write-in campaign in the general election.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell was also on the ballot Tuesday, but he conceded early Wednesday morning when it was clear he could not win. "What's next for me is helping the winner win the general election," he told reporters.
All of the candidates recently pledged to support the nominee, assuaging concerns that party divisions would play to Begich's advantage in November. Democrats were privately hopeful that Miller's perceived surge in the homestretch would put him over the top. He was positioned as the most conservative Republican in the primary, and Democrats believe they could peel off centrist voters in a general election.
On the eve of the primary, and during the day Tuesday, time-tested Alaska political traditions endured as the candidates' supporters gathered on main roads throughout the city to waive campaign signs and to encourage voters to head to the polls.
"Voters are going to make the decision today. I'm proud of the campaign we ran," Sullivan said Tuesday morning as he joined supporters on a busy Anchorage street. "We have not left any stone unturned."
The Senate race will be the most expensive in the state's history. More than $8 million has already been spent, predominantly in negative television attack ads. Alaska is one of seven Democratic-held seats in serious contention this November. Republicans need to net gain six seats for a takeover, and they are already expected to pick up at least three seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
The historically Republican lean of Alaska is fueling GOP hopes for a victory. Begich is touting his independence, record of working with Republicans, and clout he's gained in Washington in his bid for a second term.
Contributing: The Associated Press