Tea party returning to Alaska to help Miller

ARRIVING NEXT WEEK: Group calls Murkowski's write-in bid an "insult."

September 22, 2010 

JUNEAU -- The tea party subset credited with helping to upset the status quo in several races this election year is coming back to Alaska to fulfill a vow to do whatever it takes to beat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell said Wednesday that the group plans to be in Alaska in about a week and will unveil a new ad campaign in support of Republican Joe Miller.

The California-based group reported spending more than $550,000 to help Miller -- a self-described "constitutional conservative" making his first statewide run for public office -- defeat Murkowski in last month's GOP primary.

The group claims at least partial credit for upset wins in two other states -- Sharron Angle in Nevada and Mike Lee in Utah.

The Tea Party Express painted Alaska's senior senator as a liberal and Republican in name only, and it vowed to work twice as hard to defeat her if she mounted a write-in campaign, which she is doing.

"We will do whatever it takes, as much as it takes, to support Joe Miller and make sure he wins this race," Russell said.

He said he could not immediately say how much the group has raised since the primary to help Miller, though there's been an "incredible" response in light of the "shameful" decision by Murkowski to get back in the race.

"We think that Murkowski's unwillingness to respect the will of the voters is an insult to them, and her continually blaming the result of the election on somebody else, I think, is also an insult to the voters who made up their own minds," Russell said.

Murkowski, criticized for not fighting back more aggressively during the primary, has called the Tea Party Express an outside extremist group that hijacked the state GOP and lied about her position on the federal health care overhaul. The group stands by its characterization of her on the issue, Russell said.

Her campaign promised Wednesday to fight any outside group that tries to influence the election's outcome.

Murkowski said she re-entered the race following an outpouring from Alaskans urging her to offer them a choice between the "extremist" views of Miller and "inexperience" of Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka.

She has an estimated $1 million in the bank. Much of the money she raised for her primary run came from political action committees. Murkowski said she is seeking to build a broad coalition of support in waging her write-in campaign.

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