Tea Party Fight Brewing in Alaska Senate Race

PHOTO: Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell swears in members of the House of Representatives on the first day of the Alaska State Legislature in Juneau, Alaska, Jan. 15, 2013.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Alaska Tuesday, ensuring there will be a Republican primary in the race to run against Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat.

Treadwell officially got into the race Tuesday after announcing an exploratory committee in November. He will face off against Joe Miller, the GOP U.S. Senate primary victor in 2010, who made his intentions clear when he filed paperwork to run last month.

Miller lost in the 2010 general election when he faced off against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who ran as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Miller.

Treadwell, referring to Begich, told ABC News that it's time to "replace our senator," saying his campaign would focus on opening up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas drilling -- a move Begich has supported, as well. Treadwell touted "conservative principals," including limiting spending and "fighting for Alaska."

But, he knows he first needs to face off against Miller, an attorney who now runs a conservative website that also features conspiracy theories.

"Alaska needs a credible candidate that can win 51 percent of the vote," Treadwell said. "I don't want to upset any of his supporters by saying he can't win, but a race this time needs to attract voters to replace the sitting senator, replace the incumbent. I believe we can get a credible Republican candidate. I have a record that I will lay up against Joe [Miller] any day."

Treadwell mentioned the issues he's worked on as lieutenant governor, such as oil and gas, timber and ANWR.

He added that they were "things Joe [Miller], God bless him, has not worked on in his career as extensively as I have."

Treadwell said he has Miller supporters from 2010 who have been volunteering for his exploratory committee.

"I'm convinced we can appeal to conservatives who want a change with the status quo," Treadwell said.

Miller was able to win in 2010 with Tea Party support, something he would need help with again this time around, even in red Alaska. But Treadwell made it clear he, too, would go after that support.

"Government's first job is to protect liberty," Treadwell said, also noting his support for "fiscal sanity."

"I'll go against Joe any day he wants to about that," Treadwell said.

"I think Alaskans want someone with a conservative philosophy working with people that makes things work," Treadwell said. "I'm not a person who burns bridges. ... I go into this with a sense of discipline."

Treadwell added another veiled dig at Miller, saying his candidacy is about "putting conservative views in action and you can't do that by scaring people, you need to do it by doing things."

Miller's campaign said he was unavailable for an interview, instead providing a written statement.

"I welcome Mr. Treadwell to the race," said Miller. "Competition is a good thing. I look forward to a vigorous debate on the issues facing the country, and the great state of Alaska."

He also took a swipe at Treadwell and Begich over Begich's comment to an interviewer that he was closer to a "Rockefeller Republican" than a "Pelosi Democrat."

"Mr. Treadwell will appreciate some company," said Miller. "Given Alaska's demographics, I'm sure it probably gets lonely over at the country club."

Begich is a top target for Republicans in the 2014 cycle and he told ABC News in an interview, "It's going to be a crowded primary over there," referring to the Republican primary. He said he's focused on "delivering the issues that are important to Alaska ... while they are having their battle over there in the primary."

"Whoever comes out of [the GOP primary], it will be a tough race," Begich said. "I'll be making sure Alaskans know what I have done and what I hope to do, and that's going to be the focus. I know over there, in the primary, there is already sniping back and forth, and I'm sure that's going to be a rough-and-tumble race."

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