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Treadwell ramps up for Senate after Parnell announcement

In governor's race, Berkowitz won't rule out rematch

Posted: May 6, 2013 - 8:13pm  |  Updated: May 7, 2013 - 12:10am

Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell indicated Monday that he is moving closer to a run for the United States Senate now that Gov. Sean Parnell has ruled himself out of that race.

Parnell’s announcement Friday that he will seek reelection ended months of speculation that he could forgo reelection for a run against Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat elected as Alaska’s junior senator in 2008.

Treadwell announced late last year that he would explore a Senate bid, although he said at the time that he had “no interest” in running against Parnell if the governor opted to enter the race.

With Parnell out of the picture for Senate, Treadwell said Monday, “We are intensifying our efforts to explore the viability of a run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.”

Treadwell added, “We are intensifying those efforts now and intend to have an announcement, my guess is by sometime in June.”

Treadwell said last year that if Parnell ran for Senate, he might explore running to succeed him as governor. On Monday, Treadwell closed the door on that possibility, reiterating his desire not to compete against Parnell for political office. He said his three options now are to run for reelection as lieutenant governor, run for Senate, or retire and return to the private sector.

“We’re very aggressively looking at the feasibility of a Senate run,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell also congratulated Parnell on his decision to seek reelection.

“I have had a lot of fun serving with him and have not yet made my own decision but wish him the very best of luck,” said Treadwell.

Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller, who was the Republican nominee for Senate in 2010, is also exploring a Senate bid. He did not return a call requesting comment before press time Monday.

Parnell joins Bill Walker, whom he defeated for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, among major candidates in the race for governor.

Walker, an Anchorage attorney, former mayor of Valdez and host of the public affairs television show “On Point with Bill Walker,” announced he would run for governor — regardless of Parnell’s decision — last month.

Parnell won 50.1 percent of the vote to Walker’s 33.1 percent in the 2010 primary election. Walker said he thinks the 2014 primary “(is) going to play out quite a bit differently” than the primary in 2010.

“I welcome him to the race,” Walker said of Parnell. “I look forward to a healthy discussion. I think we’re quite a ways apart on a number of issues, so I look forward to a thorough debate on the issues.”

Walker also said that he expects oil taxes will be a “center page” issue in the race.

In the primary, Walker suggested he will court “Republicans who don’t necessarily think we have to give away revenues without asking for anything in return,” a reference to criticism of Parnell’s oil tax-cutting Senate Bill 21 that the bill was passed without oil companies providing firm assurances that they will increase production in Alaska.

On the Democratic side, former Anchorage Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, who was his party’s nominee for governor in 2010, sounded open to a rematch with Parnell — although he quipped, “If I were to do a rematch, I’d want a different outcome.”

Berkowitz lost to Parnell in the 2010 general election, carrying 37.7 percent of the vote to Parnell’s 59.1 percent.

Berkowitz, who also ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006 and Congress in 2008, criticized Parnell for announcing his reelection bid at an Alaska Federation of Republican Women event the evening before the weekend.

“I don’t know how you can claim to be governor of all Alaskans when you announce on Friday night in front of a partisan crowd what you’re going to do,” said Berkowitz.

As for his own 2014 plans, Berkowitz said he is “not ruling anything out” and has “no timelines” for a decision, adding that he will have to consult with his wife before deciding whether to run.

Editors note: Correction was made to Rep. Ethan Burkowitz title.

Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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