Tea Party Express that helped defeat Murkowski in primary returns to Alaska for November race

By Becky Bohrer, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Tea Party Express returns to Alaska with ads, show

JUNEAU, Alaska — A national tea party group that helped defeat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary is back in Alaska, vowing this time to turn back the Republican’s write-in candidacy in the general election.

The California-based Tea Party Express unveiled a new ad campaign Monday in support of Murkowski’s Republican rival, Joe Miller.

He defeated Murkowski in the August primary, though she has mounted a write-in campaign, saying she was encouraged to do so by Alaskans wanting a choice between the “extremist” views of Miller and the “inexperience” of Democrat Scott McAdams, a small-town mayor

During the primary, Tea Party Express reported spending more than $550,000 to help Miller, a Sarah Palin-supported candidate who favors limiting the powers of the federal government to those outlined in the Constitution.

The party has pledged to do whatever it takes to beat Murkowski in November — including spending $100,000 or more on print and broadcast ads and direct mail.

“Lisa, we beat you once, and we will beat you again,” chairwoman Amy Kremer said in Anchorage Monday. She called Murkowski a “political diva.”

The group plans to begin airing ads in the state this week, including one entitled “Arrogant Lisa Murkowski — You Lost!” It seeks to paint Murkowski as more interested in political self-preservation than in serving the interests of Alaskans. It also claims she “tried to manipulate the Libertarian party into giving her their slot” on the ballot.

Murkowski has said that friends — without her direction — approached the party to see what it would take for her name to appear as a Libertarian candidate and that she was not about to change her beliefs for political expediency.

Scott Kohlhaas, the Libertarian party’s chairman, said he did have a “get-to-know-you” with Murkowski’s then-campaign manager, John Bitney, who could not immediately be reached.

Libertarian leaders waited for Murkowski to ask for a ballot line but she never did, Kohlhaas said.

The party didn’t feel manipulated by Murkowski, he said. “Tempted, another story,” Kohlhaas said Monday. “But manipulated, no.”

Tea Party Express also made claims about Murkowski’s record during the primary that she called mischaracterizations or lies.

For example, it repeated the claim — which Miller also stated — that she opposed repealing the federal health care overhaul. Murkowski vehemently denied that and pointed to her record to back her up. Both Tea Party Express and Miller have stood behind the claim, and the campaigns they ran.

Murkowski has acknowledged not being ready for the impact the group would have. It ran seemingly ubiquitous ads in the primary’s final stretch after touring the state for weeks, holding at-times sparsely attended rallies.

Murkowski promised to avoid a repeat this time. She is running ads aimed at Tea Party Express featuring people vowing not to be “fooled” again, saying the group is poised to drop a “dirty money bomb” and is trying to “take our seat.”

Murkowski has called Tea Party Express an outside “extremist” group that “hijacked” the state GOP.

Eddie Burke, a former radio talk show host and spokesman for the nascent Anchorage Tea Party, said his group asked Tea Party Express — which he termed “powerful” — to return to Alaska to help defeat Murkowski. He said it did this because the state and country are worth fighting for.

A Murkowski spokesman declined immediate comment.

Tea Party Express also is hosting a two-hour radio-thon Monday night, a rally and fundraiser of sorts for Miller, on KBYR in Anchorage. Spokesman Levi Russell said the group has done this in other states, too — taken over the airwaves with callers talking up their candidate. He said he could not immediately say how much the air-buy cost.

The group also hasn’t said how much it has raised to support Miller since the primary. He has been one of three U.S. Senate candidates and political upstarts for which it has been making special fundraising appeals. The others are Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada.

Miller told ABC News and Politico that he doesn’t support a federal minimum wage. He said that issue — like others — should be decided at the state level. He noted Alaska’s minimum — of $7.75 an hour — is higher than the national minimum, of $7.25 an hour.

A 2009 state law calls for the minimum in Alaska to be 50 cents higher than the national floor.

Associated Press Writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage, Alaska.

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