AJOC EDITORIAL: Dems play race card in first attacks on Treadwell


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It could be an ugly race for U.S. Senate in Alaska if the first attacks on Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell are any indication.

Democrat incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, who will be challenged by Treadwell in 2014, straight up accused the Parnell administration and the Legislature of attempting to suppress the Alaska Native vote in a speech to the House and Senate this past March, and the state Democrat party immediately followed suit by charging the administration with “systematically” suppressing the Native vote.

The June 25 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that voided the methodology Congress approved in 2006 when it reauthorized the Voting Rights Act gave Begich and state Democrats another opportunity to demagogue the race issue and they didn’t miss their chance.

“Treadwell praises Supreme Court attack on voting rights,” proclaimed the press release from the state Democrat party.

In his statement, Begich said, “Times have changed since (1965) and Alaska has made some progress, but challenges remain. For example, the Alaska Legislature right now is considering measures to make it more difficult for rural Alaskans to exercise their right to vote through voter ID bills while the State is closing rural polling places.”

The accusation from Begich and his fellow Democrats is clear: Republicans are bigots, and they are actively discriminating against Alaska Natives.

You almost have to wonder why Begich would want to go back to Washington, D.C., to represent a state that would elect the likes of Gov. Sean Parnell, Treadwell and a majority of Republican legislators. If he really wants to protect Alaska Natives from being disenfranchised, perhaps he should run for Treadwell’s job instead.

The fact that one of Treadwell’s only duties as lieutenant governor is to supervise elections makes the Democrats’ strategy against him obvious: Portray him and Parnell as racists and mobilize the Alaska Native vote against him much the way Sen. Lisa Murkowski succeeded in the general election as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller in 2010.

Miller, you’ll recall, was campaigning against federal government spending and made the mistake of questioning the unlimited no-bid contracts awarded to Alaska Native Regional corporations under the Small Business Administration 8(a) program.

Miller, who’s thrown his hat in the ring again for 2014, made no shortage of unforced screwups throughout his campaign after knocking off Murkowski in the primary, but none was bigger than making a comment that mobilized the Native corporations against him.

Thanks to their massive get-out-the-vote effort in rural Alaska and a deluge of campaign ads, Murkowski won a historic reelection thanks entirely to her margin of victory in heavily Alaska Native districts.

In the nine most heavily Alaska Native districts, Murkowski outperformed her statewide percentage in seven of them. In those seven districts from Southeast to the Slope, Murkowski racked up a margin of 10,594 votes more than Miller and won the election by 10,252 votes.

So somehow, despite the (supposed) best efforts of Parnell and Treadwell to suppress their votes, Alaska Natives not only played a role in the 2010 outcome, they swung the election to Murkowski.

Pardon me for noticing that kind of clout is hardly Bull Conner’s Birmingham.

Democrats will argue that the Republican administration is determined not to see a repeat of the 2010 election in their drive to unseat Begich, and hence the effort to disenfranchise Alaska Natives.

The thought here is that it is not Republicans who are afraid of Alaska Natives, it is the Democrats who fear Begich’s ability to hold onto this Senate seat without the help of a bogus conviction of the late Sen. Ted Stevens to carry him across the finish line this time.

Dealing the race card against Treadwell this early in the campaign is hardly a sign of confidence from Democrats that Begich’s record of voting with President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid 95 percent of the time is going to be his strongest selling point in Alaska.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

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