As Alaskans prepare to flip their calendars from July to August, the competition within the GOP senate primary is heating up. Sullivan has led the pack, with recent polls indicating that trend is continuing. But Republican primaries have proven tricky to predict, and both Treadwell and Miller are not letting up. Each campaign has embraced one uniform strategy: run as far to the political right as possible. The effort to out-conservative one another has been an interesting spectacle, most recently highlighted by each trying to support the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law the hardest.
Monday, the trek rightward marched on. The far-right Alaska Family Action (AFA) group — the advocacy arm of Alaska Family Council — released the group’s “US Senate Primary Candidate Voter Guide,” likely to help promote their upcoming “Social Issues Debate” on August 4. As is generally the case with anything AFA related, it narrowly honed in on views surrounding abortion, abortion, abortion, marriage equality, and abortion.
The questions centered around choice were as follows:
- Do you support overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which asserted the existence of a federal constitutional right to abortion?
- Would you support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act introduced in the 113th Congress… that would ban most abortions after the point when an unborn child can feel pain during the abortion, at 20 weeks after fertilization?
- Would you support… [prohibiting] federal funding of all abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood?
- Would you support the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act… that would end taxpayer funding for most abortions by permanently codifying the Hyde Amendment and making it apply to all government spending?
- Would you support a ban on federal funding for stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos?
- Would you support… [a] ban [on] the cloning of human embryos?
- Would you oppose the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act…” that would invalidate many state-level regulations concerning abortion, such as laws requiring waiting periods, informed consent, ultrasounds, and limitations on late-term abortions?
- Would you support the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA)… that would require an abortionist to notify a parent before performing an abortion on a minor who is a resident of another state, and which makes it a crime to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion without fulfilling the requirements of a parental notice or consent law in the minor’s home state?
- Would you support the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA)… that would apply federal criminal penalties to anyone who performs an abortion, or who coerces someone into having an abortion, for the purpose of sex-selection[?]
All candidates answered in the affirmative on all questions. The only slight difference in opinions was made apparent when the survey asked the candidates to indicate “which of the following statements most closely reflects your belief as to when the law should permit and/or prohibit abortion.” The candidates were offered several choices, ranging from “Abortion should be legal for any reason, at any time during a pregnancy,” to “Abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.”
However, he did not specify what that actually meant. In 2010, he offered comparable ambiguity, describing his position as “unequivocally pro-life and life must be protected from the moment of conception to the time of natural death.”
In a campaign forum earlier this summer, Miller said that his “number one priority is to end the horror of abortion in this country,” and erroneously asserted that it is bankrupting social security.
Treadwell also opted to check the box marked “Other,” and wrote in:
This is the position I took in a questionnaire asked by Alaska Right to Life in 2010: “In the rare circumstances that the mother and child will die if the pregnancy continues and all other possible means to save the mother and child have been exhausted (example: a tubal pregnancy.)”
Sullivan was the lone candidate to voice approval of abortions only “when necessary to save the life of the mother, or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.”
Moving on to “Marriage & Family Issues” — i.e., the gay — all candidates support amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as “consisting only of a man and a woman” and barring states from the right to interpret marriage differently. The GOP hopefuls — somewhat contradicting themselves — also agreed that states should be able to retain the right to define marriage, so long as each defines it as a union between a man and a woman. Treadwell gave nod to the conflict a constitutional amendment barring states rights regarding the definition of marriage could represent when juxtaposed with a law affirming a state’s right to define marriage, adding that “a law, however, is easier to pass sooner.”
All oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation that would offer basic workplace, housing, and banking protections for LGBT citizens.
It should be noted that they do feel that anti-discrimination laws are necessary — just not ones that protect LGBT Americans. All three candidates voiced support for the “Marriage and Religious Freedom” Act. The proposed legislation, authored by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people who discriminate against LGBT citizens so long as the discrimination is an expression of faith.
“The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person,” Labrador’s bill states, “on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
The Onion is calling. It would like its satirical headline back.
By the end of the day on August 19 (God willing), Alaskans will have a single candidate running against Senator Begich in the general election. If history is any indicator, there will then be a mad rush to the center, flooded with photos of candidates in Carhartts with the snow-capped Chugach Mountains in the background. When the field narrows to two, “Republican vs. Democrat” generally pales in comparison to candidates’ efforts to frame themselves as the “real” Alaskan. This is why the Begich campaign’s main attack lines against front runner Sullivan have thus far aimed specifically to cast the former attorney general as an Outsider.
But the beliefs described in this questionnaire — likely to be expounded on further at the upcoming “Social Issues Debate” — might be harder to untangle from when the primary base of the state’s most conservative voters opens up to the broader electorate. A recent poll found 47 percent of Alaskans support marriage equality (up nine points from just last year). That support increases to 71 percent when measuring support for civil unions — including a majority of Republicans (54 percent). That’s a far cry from the GOP contenders’ expressed desire to prohibit any legal recognition of same-sex partnerships while using the full weight of the federal government to protect the right to fire, deny employment, housing, and/or credit to LGBT Americans.
Similarly, while there isn’t a lot of polling data on choice issues, the most recent numbers (from 2009) showed that a majority — 58 percent — of Alaskans still identify as pro-choice. Just 37 percent described themselves as pro-life. That might conflict with Treadwell’s statement of support for carrying pregnancies resulting from rape and incest to term, and Miller’s belief that abortion should be outlawed and every sperm is sacred, final answer.
The GOP primary has become a tool for forcing candidates as far to the right as possible. But the hard line stances the Republican base is demanding of candidates this August might turn into a mighty hurdle come November, as their positions drift further and further away from the mainstream and toward discussions of banning human cloning and stem cell research.