Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) will announce he's running against Sen. Mark Begich (D) today, several sources tell The Hotline. A Democratic source said Treadwell called Begich to inform him of the impending announcement.
Treadwell's entry into the race gives Republicans a potentially strong candidate in a deeply red state. Mitt Romney won Alaska's three electoral votes by a 14-point margin in 2012, and no Democratic official has won re-election since Gov. Tony Knowles claimed a second term in 1998.
Begich, a freshman Democrat, beat longtime Republican Sen. Ted Stevens by a scant 1.3 percentage points -- just 4,000 votes -- in 2008, in an election held just a week after Stevens was convicted on seven counts of ethics violations and corruption charges.
But before Republicans can crow about Treadwell's chances, he'll have to get to the general election first. Treadwell will likely face Joe Miller, the conservative activist who beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Republican primary before Murkowski staged a dramatic comeback to win as a write-in candidate. Miller has already announced he's running again.
The Republican establishment will back Treadwell, fearful that Miller's nomination could doom their chances at a seat the party must win if it's going to reclaim the majority.
Complicating matters for the GOP establishment, state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) is expected to announce his own campaign later this summer.
Treadwell's campaign also means Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking re-election this year, will have to find a new running mate. State Sen. Lesil McGuire and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan -- no relation to the natural resources commissioner -- are already seeking the Republican nomination.