BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Today’s primary will decide the hard-fought, first-round battle for U.S. Senate in Alaska and whether to reinstate an oil tax system that was a legacy of Sarah Palin’s short tenure as governor.
Here are five more things to know about the primary:
—BIG MONEY: Alaska’s U.S. Senate race is the first major race in the state during the era of super PACs and it comes with high stakes: Republicans see the state as key to their efforts to wrest back control of the chamber. The seat is currently held by a first-term Democratic incumbent, Mark Begich, who is putting up a hard fight.
In the lead-up to the primary, a super PAC backing Begich spent about $4 million against the presumptive GOP front-runner, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan. About $1.2 million has been spent against Begich, according to the web-based Influence Tracker, with millions more waiting in the wings heading toward the general election.
—SENATE SLATE: Begich’s only primary opposition is from a Brooklyn, New York, man who has been a non-factor. The Republican contest is considered a three-man race between Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. The Libertarian and Alaskan Independence parties are fielding candidates, as well. Begich wants all the eventual nominees included in debates he participates in.
—OIL TAX REPEAL: Ballot Measure 1 asks voters whether they want to repeal the oil tax cuts passed by lawmakers in 2013 and revert to the system enacted under Palin in 2007. A “yes” vote favors repeal. According to the Division of Elections, only three referenda have ever appeared on a statewide ballot, two of which passed, one in 2000, one in 1976.
—OTHER RACES: The ballot also features U.S. House and gubernatorial primaries, though no upsets are expected. The attention in both those has largely been focused on the general.
—PRIMARY TURNOUT: Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai isn’t estimating possible voter turnout, just saying she hopes it’s “high.” Turnout in 2010, which also featured competitive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, was about 34 percent. Since 1976, turnout has topped 50 percent just three times.