Tara Sweeney, a Republican running for Congress for Alaska’s newly open congressional seat, held her first fundraiser Saturday night with a packed house in the Geneva Woods area of Anchorage, with 50-75 people attending.
Sweeney named Karina Waller, a former legislative director for the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as her campaign manager. Waller has taken a leave of absence from running the Ted Stevens Foundation to manage Sweeney’s campaign.
Co-chairs for the campaign include retired Admiral Tom Barrett, prior president of Alyeska Pipeline Co.; Kristina Woolston, external affairs manager at Donlin Gold; and Kristin Mellinger, former CFO at ASRC and current president at V3 Strategic Solutions. Laura Edmonston, executive vice president at Bering Straits Native Corporation, is the campaign’s treasurer. Sweeney’s daughter Caitlin Sweeney will do scheduling for the campaign.
Sweeney is the former co-chair of the Alaskans for Don Young campaign in 2022, until the death of the congressman on March 18. She was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a position she vacated upon the swearing in of President Joe Biden. Prior to that, she had been a major figure in Alaska Federation of Natives, where she was co-chair for a year.
She is Inupiaq and a member of the Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government. She grew up in Wainwright, Bethel, Unalakleet, Utqiagvik and graduated from Barrow High School in 1991. She attended Cornell University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial and labor relations. She was the external affairs vice president for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, and served in the administration of Gov. Frank Murkowski. She was the co-chair of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s campaign for Senate in 2014. She is married to Kevin Sweeney, a former aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Sweeney will be on the June 11 special election primary ballot along with 47 other names, including Sarah Palin, Nick Begich, Al Gross, Chris Constant, and Santa Claus.
For Sweeney, as well as all of the other candidates except Palin and Gross who can raise national money quickly, the challenge will be to raise campaign funds and build name recognition before the end of the election period. The ballots will be in the mail to registered voters on April 27, and the mail-in-only election ends in just 62 days. The four top vote-getters will proceed to the special election general ballot, which will be included with the regular primary ballot on Aug. 16.
Sweeney concluded her remarks by saying, “I won’t quit. I was in the Administration [Trump] working until the very last day. I’m not a quitter. I’m a fighter. I want to fight for you, with you and along side you.”