- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller said Friday that he could not commit to supporting the eventual nominee should his own candidacy falter.

The three major Republican candidates were asked during a forum at the state GOP convention what steps they would take to ensure the Republican nominee defeats incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, if they themselves lose the primary. Moderator Ben Brown said over half the questions he received were on that theme.

Both Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan said they would support the eventual nominee, though they, like Miller, also expressed confidence in their respective bids. Sullivan said the election was bigger than “petty politics” or personal ambition. Treadwell said the party needs to stick together.

But Miller said making such a commitment requires a “baseline of trust.” He said his opponents supported Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010, when she mounted a write-in campaign to keep her job just weeks after conceding the GOP primary to Miller. “Without that baseline of trust, I cannot make such a commitment,” he said.

Sullivan, who was Alaska’s attorney general during the 2010 elections, told a reporter he didn’t publicly take sides in that race. He said he was neutral, as someone in his position at the time should be.

Treadwell, who was elected lieutenant governor in November 2010, said he did not endorse a candidate in the fall election. He said he told anyone who asked at the time that the race could go into overtime, which it did. It wasn’t certified until the end of December that year, after he had been sworn in. Treadwell said he later shared that he had voted for Murkowski.

The state Supreme Court, in the days leading to the election, allowed election workers to provide a list of write-in candidates to voters requesting one. The Department of Law, under Sullivan, argued in support of this practice as a way to help voters.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties challenged the practice. Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said the campaign considered that to be Sullivan taking sides, saying there had been no prior precedent for such lists.

The 2010 Senate race was hard-fought and drawn-out. It was followed by a boisterous state convention in 2012, in which Ron Paul supporters elected like-minded individuals to leadership posts only to have those members removed from those positions later. The Anchorage Daily News this week reported that many Paul supporters planned to skip this year’s convention and some planned to join an alternative Republican group.

But many in the party are eager to move on. Calls for unity have been voiced repeatedly by Republican leaders since the convention kicked off Thursday. Current party chairman Peter Goldberg has stressed that all Republicans are important and welcome in the GOP.

State House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said it has taken time for the party to heal following the 2010 election. He thinks everyone wants to get back the “same strong party we’ve known,” he said.

Candidates make their pitches to party activists at the convention. Both Treadwell and Sullivan took aim at Begich and touted their respective accomplishments. Treadwell, to applause, promised that he would not vote to expand the debt of the United States unless there was also a vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. Sullivan talked about the need to push back against the “overregulation of Alaska, of America, in every single sector.”

They also invoked the legacy of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who was revered in Alaska for his ability over his decades-long career to deliver federal funds and projects home. Begich defeated Stevens in 2008, following Stevens’ conviction in a corruption case. The conviction was later dismissed over the prosecution’s handling of the case.

Miller, meanwhile, focused heavily on the party itself.

“It’s good to see many of my good friends here,” he said at the start of his opening comments. “And a few others. Hope springs eternal.”

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