Little-known Alaska Democratic Senate hopeful says Murkowski write-in campaign is lost cause

By Becky Bohrer, AP
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alaska Dem rival: Murkowski campaign a lost cause

JUNEAU, Alaska — The little-known Democrat in Alaska’s Senate race is labeling Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign as a lost cause.

Scott McAdams told The Associated Press on Saturday that it’s “wishful thinking” on Murkowski’s part if she thinks she can overcome history — and other factors after her loss in last month’s GOP primary to Joe Miller — to pull off a win.

She is “in the middle of a fight she can’t win,” he said, noting that other well-known Alaska politicians, including Wally Hickel and Ernest Gruening, failed in similar efforts. The last U.S. Senate candidate to succeed in such a bid was Strom Thurmond in 1954.

McAdams said some of the voters he needs to reach and swing to his side are “rational” Alaskans who recognize the challenge she faces.

But Murkowski is a household name in Alaska. She said she has more than $1 million in the bank, and she has a record voters can look to. She’s also Alaska’s senior senator, holding positions on the energy and appropriations committees, which are panels of special importance for a state that relies heavily on its resources and the federal government.

Murkowski has said she wouldn’t have re-entered the race if she didn’t believe she had a shot at winning. And she said she returned to the race following the urging of Alaskans who wanted a choice between the “extremist” views of Miller and the inexperience of McAdams.

“Scott is campaigning on what Alaskans can’t do,” she said in a statement Saturday. “We will be working with our friends and neighbors over the next 40 days to show folks what Alaskans can do.”

McAdams, 39, is working to gain name recognition outside southeast Alaska, where he’s held office at the local level for the past eight years, including the past two as mayor of Sitka. Critics say he’s too inexperienced to go to Washington, but he says he’s dealt with budgets and constituent concerns and that Miller hasn’t held elected office.

Beyond the critics, McAdams faces a battle of his own in seeking to win over some of the same voters Murkowski is courting. More than half of all registered voters in the state are considered undeclared or nonpartisan. Among voters with party preferences, Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 52,000.

In a recent debate with Miller, McAdams praised Murkowski and said he would rather see her or himself elected than Miller, a candidate whose limited-government beliefs McAdams views as extreme and as not being in Alaska’s interests.

Miller, a self-described constitutional conservative, has said he would never say no to federal funding for Alaska. But he also believes the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy and says the responsibility of a senator should rest not with securing earmarks, but with ensuring the state gets its fair share at the appropriations table.

McAdams said the tea party-supported Miller and like-minded senators and candidates who endorse ideas such as doing away with the U.S. Department of Education or implementing an alternative to Social Security want “to repeal the 20th century.”

“When we talk about gridlock now,” he said, “these folks are so far removed from the center that they don’t even understand the language the other side speaks, in my view.”

Randy DeSoto, a Miller spokesman, said Saturday that “with the nation experiencing $1.5 trillion dollar deficits, what’s extreme is that McAdams supports the Obama agenda and if elected, we’ll get more of the same.”

Unlike Miller, who has garnered support from the Republican establishment, McAdams hasn’t been promised financial help from national Democrats or gotten help from surrogate groups. McAdams said, however, he has raised nearly $350,000 since the Aug. 24 primary — much of that, he said, from Alaskans — and expects to raise $1 million.

He said he’s working 16-hour days, seven days a week, traveling the state, meeting Alaskans, raising money, working the phones. He said he has the support of labor unions and is seeing a huge response among Alaskans wanting to volunteer for his campaign.

“This is the little campaign that could,” he said. “We’re going to shock the world on Nov. 3. We’re going to win this thing.”

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