He once worked for Sarah Palin and has been dubbed a “protégé” of Condoleezza Rice.
Now Dan Sullivan is fighting to become a high-profile conservative brand name of his own, trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska in one of the most closely watched political races of the year.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appointed Sullivan attorney general in 2009. Before that he worked within President George W. Bush’s inner circle as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Now, Sullivan has the task of convincing GOP primary voters that he is Alaskan enough, among other things, to win a spot on the ballot in November.
“Alaska in many ways is a mindset,” said Sullivan, who some have accused of being a carpetbagger born in Ohio, without legitimate Alaskan roots. “I moved to Alaska 17 years ago, was married 20 years ago, my kids and family were raised in Alaska … I've dedicated my life to my great state and my family has and we love it up there.”
While Sullivan describes both Palin and Rice as “great bosses,” he insists that he stands on his own.
"You know protégé, look I learned a lot from her [Condoleezza Rice], I learned a lot from Sarah Palin,” he said.
Rice has come to Sullivan’s aid with an endorsement in the race, but Palin has yet to do the same. The former governor and vice presidential candidate’s silence in the race is likely due in part to the fact that she endorsed Sullivan’s Tea Party opponent, Joe Miller, in the last Alaskan Senate race in 2010.
When asked if he expects Palin’s public support, Sullivan made clear that it would be welcome.
“One of the things that Governor Palin has been associated with is different elements of the Republican Party, Tea Party -- less government, more economic freedom, fighting the federal government's overreach,” he said. “Those are critical issues for my campaign.”
Even without Palin’s endorsement, Sullivan is considered the leading Republican contender in the race and is currently the frontrunner against Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in August’s Republican primary.
Miller has said that if he doesn’t win in the primary against Sullivan, he has not ruled out running as an Independent in the general election. Sullivan, however, said he would not consider doing the same if he loses.
“This election is about things that are much bigger than one individual or one individual's ambition,” he said. “The focus is to unite the party … but then get behind whoever wins the primary to go on to help get the broader goal that all Republicans in Alaska agree on, which is to beat Mark Begich in November.”
If he does make it to the Senate, Sullivan said, he plans to align himself more closely with the “newer generation” of Republican senators, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, than the established party line.
“I do really like the newer generation of senators,” he said. “To me, getting back to limited government, less government, more freedom, is very important. Ultimately, I'm going to be the senator for Alaska based on Dan Sullivan's principles.”
For more of the interview with Sullivan, including his favored variety of Alaskan salmon, check out this episode of “Power Players.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, Melissa Young, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.