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Treadwell turns to Ohio Republicans for help funding Alaska Senate campaign

Alex DeMarban
Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in Girdwood, Alaska, talking with speakers and attendees at the Arctic Imperative Summit. August 25, 2012 Loren Holmes photo

An elections chief from Ohio who has been blasted by critics who believe he has limited voting opportunities will headline an out-of-state fundraiser for another elections chief who has faced his share of complaints in Alaska.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, seeking the Republican nomination for the Alaska U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, will be the subject of a fundraiser at the Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Set for next Wednesday, dinner and reception runs $1,000 a person, according to an invitation.

Deep-red Alaska is shaping up as a key battleground as Republicans hope to gain seats in the U.S. Senate. Treadwell said a Republican network around the country has helped him organize fundraisers in several states, and that he'll make a "fast trip" down to Ohio next week for the event.

"I was invited and was honored to have the support of folks in Ohio," he said.

Treadwell was born and grew up in Connecticut, attending Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, site of the mass shooting last spring that shocked the nation. But he has "deep roots" in Ohio, according to the invitation. He is grandson of a former Cincinnati attorney, Albert Russel. Treadwell also chairs the Aerospace States Association, which helps promote The Buckeye State.

More interesting, perhaps, is that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is the top name on the invite. Opponents say Husted, a Republican, has tried to suppress voter access at polls, including by trying to limit early voting before the 2012 presidential election.

Others have supported steps he's taken to streamline the voting process, clean up voter rolls and increase voting options for military families, according to his official page at the state of Ohio's website.  

Treadwell has been faced with his own voting controversy, too, with critics saying he's trying to minimize the Alaska Native vote, a demographic many believe will favor Begich, the incumbent, in the general election.

Treadwell said he's done no such thing. He's tried to extend voting opportunities for all voters, and only supported the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down a section of the Voting Rights Act because the section led to federal micromanagement of even small changes to the state's voting rules.

"I can show you a notebook several inches thick," Treadwell said. "If I wanted to change a line on a voter registration form, I had to get permission from the Department of Justice."  

Husted said he knows Treadwell, whose official capacity is Alaska's equivalent to a secretary of state, through meetings of the National Association of Secretaries of State. When Treadwell called him and said he'd be appearing at a fundraiser near Husted's home, Husted agreed to lend his name to the event, Husted said.

"I'll be there and say nice things about him," said Husted. "My interactions with Mead have been great. He's a thoughtful man who has integrity, and he's a friend."

Husted, currently running for reelection, said criticism is part of life for a public figure.

"When you're in public office people will criticize you even when you're doing your job the right way," he said.

Treadwell's ties to another Republican elections chief have also been questioned. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a proponent of requiring photo IDs at the polls, told the Anchorage Daily News three months ago that Treadwell assisted his efforts to promote the Kansas concept before the Alaska Legislature.

A effort to create such a requirement in Alaska failed this spring, but could return to the Legislature next spring.

Treadwell said in the article that he didn't assist Kobach or promote the voter ID law behind the scenes.

The allegations are not "based on facts, pure and simple. I have done much to extend the franchise and make it easier to vote," Treadwell told the Dispatch.

Treadwell said he does not support a voter ID requirement in Alaska.

Critics of that idea say it could hurt turnout in the Native-dominated Bush, where many people don't own cars and lack photo IDs.

Treadwell announced his candidacy in June, putting him well behind Begich in the race to raise funds. Begich is also tapping his own network around the country, and it's likely that Republican Joe Miller, another candidate for the seat, is doing the same, Treadwell said.

As of June 30, Treadwell reported raising about $170,000 in an abbreviated fundraising quarter, $50,000 of which was his own money. His campaign had about $130,000 at the time.

Begich had raised close to $1 million in that same quarter and had about $2 million on hand. Miller raised about $18,000 in the second quarter, and had about $315,000 on hand.

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com