Is Joe Miller too 'tea party' for Alaska?
Joe Miller, the 'tea party'-backed Republican candidate for Senate in Alaska, is trying to turn traditional Alaska politics on its head. It might not work.
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The issue at hand at Monday’s no-questions news conference was a report that Miller violated ethics rules while he was a part-time attorney with the Fairbanks North Star Borough – one of Alaska's county-like political subdivisions. The borough's former mayor said Miller used borough computers, equipment, and time to conduct an unsuccessful campaign to oust the chairman of the state Republican Party. His actions violated the ban on using public resources to conduct partisan political activity, and he was officially reprimanded, the former mayor said.Skip to next paragraph
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The mayor claims that Miller was forced to resign due to insubordination after he insisted on ditching work duties to go on a hunting trip.
Those accusations followed others that indicate that Miller – who has railed against a national “entitlement mentality” and proclaimed many benefit programs to be unconstitutional – has availed himself of various public-assistance programs. These include Medicaid-funded health care, farming subsidies, and even special “indigent” hunting and fishing permits the state provides to residents who are deep in poverty.
Miller has acknowledged his use of such programs and defended it.
“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon,” he told reporters after a previous debate. “I have had the same sort of struggles in my past that other people have had.”
Supporters have no problem with the apparent paradox.
“He’s a real person with real blood in his veins,” one sign-holding supporter told another at Monday’s Chamber of Commerce debate.
Voting against Miller?
In many ways, the election has become a referendum on Miller. Some Democrats, including state senator and Alaska Federation of Natives co-chairman Al Kooksh, are bypassing McAdams and backing Murkowski, in an effort to prevent Miller from winning.
Alaska Natives and the state’s labor unions are normally strong supporters of Democratic candidates. But fearing that Miller’s approach to Alaska’s relationship with the federal government could be ruinous, many have have rallied to support Murkowski’s unorthodox write-in campaign.
“Joe Miller would really be more focused on the tea party or the national interests outside the state," says Mr. Anderson, who also heads a new bipartisan political group called Alaskans Standing Together, which is supporting Murkowski. "We just can’t afford to have somebody of that mindset in such a key role."
Meanwhile, Murkowski retains the backing of numerous establishment Republicans, though the party is officially supporting Miller. A handful of elected Republican officials have officially endorsed Miller, but the vast majority of Republican lawmakers and many Republican mayors have endorsed Murkowski.
According to recent polls, Miller's support is equivalent to the current Alaska approval rating for former Gov. Sarah Palin, the conservative celebrity whose pre-primary endorsement of Miller propelled him out of obscurity and attracted about $600,000 from the California-based Tea Party Express. More support and money from national conservative groups have rolled in since the primary.
Staunch Miller supporters include Jessie Chilstrom, a young mother from Palmer who attended an earlier debate. She said she considers Miller to be the most inspiring candidate she’s ever seen – even more inspiring than former Governor Palin.
“If she wouldn’t have endorsed him, I wouldn’t have been happy with her,” Ms. Chilstrom said.