Mead Treadwell entered the race for lieutenant governor later than the other two Republican candidates, but he has a long history, going back to working for Alaska statesman Wally Hickel starting in the 1970s, and serving in Hickel’s gubernatorial administration in the 1990s.
“I wouldn’t be in this race at all if (incumbent lieutenant governor) Craig Campbell didn’t withdraw, I was supporting him,” Treadwell said, in an interview with the Empire during a campaign trip to Juneau.
Treadwell, of Anchorage, is competing in the Republican primary against Rep. Jay Ramras of Fairbanks and former radio host Eddie Burke of Anchorage.
A recent poll showed all three candidates closely grouped, with Treadwell trailing, but with most voters undecided.
Treadwell hopes to fill a middle ground between the two outspoken Republicans, where Ramras has harshly attacked former Gov. Sarah Palin, while Burke has staunchly defended her.
Treadwell said he hopes to find a middle ground as well on the oil tax revisions known as Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share Act, one of the main achievements of the Palin Administration.
Treadwell said he wants to reduce the tax, but not entirely repeal the tax law.
“I want to put us in a position where we are competitive globally,” he said. “Right now our tax structure does not make us competitive in the United States or the Arctic area.”
Ramras fought increased oil taxes in the Legislature, while Burke defended Palin’s efforts on the radio.
Treadwell said he’ll be an aggressive advocate for more oil drilling in Alaska, and said there could be the equivalent of new Prudhoe Bays found in the ChukChi Sea and in heavy oil, and significant quantities elsewhere, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which he’d fight to open to drilling.
Treadwell said he’d support whichever natural gas pipeline it looked like would succeed.
On some regional issues, Treadwell staked out some positions that could win support in Juneau, where he’s lived for five years, both as a member of the Hickel administration and as a reporter for the now-defunct Anchorage Times.
Hickel required most of his commissioners to live in Juneau, and Treadwell said he opposes efforts to move the capital. If elected, he said he would live in both Anchorage and Juneau.
“I’ll say it in Anchorage and I’ll say it in Juneau,” he said, “we don’t need to move the capital, we need to get the capital moving.”
Treadwell said the 90-day Legislative session, which Ramras sponsored, has not served the state well. Issues such as oil taxes are so complicated that 90 days is not sufficient to adopt a budget and deal with them at the same time.
He also said he’d opposed “capital creep,” the slow transfer of state jobs out of Juneau for which Palin was criticized. He said that was a lesson he learned as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation under Hickel.
“(Former Juneau representative) Jim Duncan was in the Legislature when I tried to move one guy, he taught me very well and I’m not going to do that anymore,” Treadwell said.
Treadwell said his business experience will serve Alaska as well, and help with his goal of diversifying the state’s economy and further developing its oil resources.
He is currently the chairman and chief executive officer of Venture Ad Astra, a geospatial and imaging technologies company and is one of the founders of Digimarc, a publicly traded company developing digital watermarking technology.
He also services as chairman of Immersive Media Corp., which developed the multi-view camera used by Google’s “Street View” program.
He resigned from the federal Arctic Research Commission in order to run for public office. He was appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2001, and served as its chair in 2006.
Treadwell, with his late wife Carol, has three children, one each in college, high school and middle school.
The Republican primary is August 24.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.