JUNEAU -- Democratic Scott McAdams praised U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski during a debate Thursday in which he painted the Republican who upset her as "groomed" by Sarah Palin and a threat to the future development of Alaska.
The debate in Juneau between McAdams and Republican Joe Miller came the day before Murkowski was scheduled to announce whether she will re-enter the race as a write-in candidate.
McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, a fishing and tourist community in Southeast Alaska, said that if Murkowski got back in, he would be fine with her winning, if he himself did not win. He said Murkowski realized the importance of federal funding for Alaska and that he had a lot of respect for her.
The tone was set early, with McAdams taking aim at Miller, and Miller sticking close to his talking points.
McAdams has cast himself as a centrist against Miller, a self-described constitutional conservative.
Miller has said the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy, the era of big spending and earmarks is over and that Alaska must be weaned from its dependency on the government. He advocates that the state be given the ability to develop its resource base -- and, therefore, to take greater control of its own future.
McAdams said the state deserves its fair share and that saying no to earmarks is a threat to Alaska.
Miller said he would never say no to federal funding for Alaska, a still-young state that has been heavily reliant on federal aid for building up its infrastructure and other needs. While he said he had a great deal of respect for the late former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who brought home billions in money and projects during his decades in the Senate, Miller also declared the era of earmarks "dead" and said a new approach is needed now, with the federal government deep in debt and belt-tightening necessary. He said Alaskans must be prepared for that new day.
Miller said the responsibility for a senator rests not with securing earmarks -- something members of the delegation, including U.S. Rep. Don Young, have unabashedly done for years -- but with ensuring the state gets its fair share at the appropriations table. He also sees the need for easing federal regulations that he believes have limited Alaska's ability to develop its energy and resource base.
McAdams agreed with Miller on the need to responsibly develop Alaska's resources, but Miller said continued Democratic control in Congress, and in the White House, does not bode well for that happening anytime soon. He said Democrats see development as a "dirty word," and hopes the changing political tides, including the tea party movement and the voting out of incumbents, help to change the atmosphere in Washington.
Miller racked up a long list of conservative endorsements during the primary, including Sarah and Todd Palin, whom he considers friends.
McAdams called Miller "hand-selected and groomed" by Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, and a divisive political figure in her home state. Miller disputed that and said he entered the race to fight for the country's future.
"I'm my own guy," he said.