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Tea Party Express leader rejects message, not messenger

Sean CockerhamMcClatchy-Tribune News Service
Amy Kremer, chair of the Tea Party Express, speaks to an Anchorge audience of Joe Miller supporter mid day Monday.
BILL ROTH

Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer, in Anchorage Monday to support Joe Miller's campaign for U.S. Senate, would not condemn her group's spokesman, Mark Williams, after his controversial blog post satirizing what he called "colored people." Kremer said the post was wrong but the Tea Party Express isn't dumping him.

"I'm not going to throw a fellow conservative under the bus. I don't agree with what he wrote, I wish he hadn't wrote it, but that's not what we are here to focus on," Kremer said in an interview.

Kremer and other Tea Party Express leaders were in Anchorage to talk about their support for Miller's Republican primary campaign against U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The California-based group said the Miller-Murkowski race would be its "singular focus" between now and the Aug. 24 primary, and that it will do whatever it takes for him to win.

"You're going to see several hundred thousand dollars spent on this race in television, in radio, in get-out-the-vote efforts," said Bryan Shroyer, the political director for the Tea Party Express.

The Miller campaign was focused on a different issue Monday, going after Andrew Halcro, a former state legislator, for claiming on his blog that Miller was fired from his job as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough last summer. The borough on Monday afternoon released a stack of heavily blacked out documents as a result of a public records request from the Daily News and other media. The documents include the letter of resignation Miller wrote last year but provide little more insight.

There was no suggestion of wrongdoing by Miller in the documents the borough disclosed.

THE EXPULSION

The Tea Party Express leaders visited Anchorage the day after news came out that the group has been expelled from the national Tea Party Federation, an organization that seeks to represent the many Tea Party anti-big government groups around the country. The federation objected to the blog post written by Williams, a California talk radio host who was chairman of the Tea Party Express until last month and is currently described as spokesman on the group's website.

Tea Party Express chairwoman Kremer said Monday that Williams, who wrote the post on his own blog, was not speaking on behalf of the Tea Party Express.

Kremer was asked during an Anchorage press conference if the Tea Party Express condemns Williams. "Mark Williams is a former chairman (of the Tea Party Express), he resigned over a month ago to go focus on his own things. I am the chairman of Tea Party Express, and we are here to focus on the good work that we do both on our tours and in these campaigns, and getting Joe Miller elected," she said.

Will he continue to be affiliated with the Tea Party Express?

"While Mark Williams may speak on behalf of us in some circumstances and in some situations, and we may agree on some things, this is not one of the things that we agree upon and Mark Williams is speaking on his own behalf and his own behalf only," she said.

The NAACP recently passed a resolution saying Tea Party leaders needed to crack down on what it said were racist elements in the movement. That's what prompted Willams' blog post.

Williams posted a fictional letter from what he called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln.

It began "Dear Mr. Lincoln,

"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

The Murkowski campaign called the blog post insulting and offensive and said Alaskans should "join the National Tea Party Federation in rejecting the Tea Party Express." The Miller campaign, while saying it trusts the Tea Party Express does not share the views expressed by Williams on his blog, on Monday also emphasized that the campaign and the Tea Party group act independently of one another.

TEA PARTY AD CAMPAIGN

Help from the Tea Party Express is crucial to Miller's campaign. He has just a fraction of the campaign cash that Murkowski has, and the Tea Party Express has proven to be an effective force supporting Lower 48 candidates this year.

The Tea Party Express leaders visiting Anchorage said they're going to start the effort by launching three radio ads and a TV ad. The first two ads draw heavily on Miller's background, including his West Point degree and Bronze Star in the first Gulf War. Debbie Lee of Arizona, who said she was the mother of the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq, will be featured in one of the radio ads. She was in Anchorage for the Tea Party Express event Monday.

The third radio ad says that "at a time when our nation is sliding toward socialism, we know we can count on Joe Miller to stand up for We the People."

Anchorage radio talk show host Glen Biegel read a statement from the Conservative Patriots Group, Alaska's most visible Tea Party organization, saying the Alaska group is glad to have the Tea Party Express help in getting Miller elected.

THE BOROUGH JOB

The Miller campaign on Monday was focusing more on the allegation by legislator-turned-blogger Halcro that Miller was fired by the Fairbanks borough. Miller spent seven years as a part-time borough attorney before leaving last September. Miller ran a private legal practice in Fairbanks at the same time.

His campaign manager Paul Bauer said Miller chose to resign after an excellent record at the borough.

The documents released by the borough included praise for Miller's work, but no criticisms or disciplinary actions. The personnel documents were heavily blacked out. Many more documents were not released at all because the borough said they were was privileged or because releasing them would violate Miller's privacy rights.

Miller's resignation letter said he was leaving because of differences with the borough, including what he said was an attempt to make him work on a case that represented a conflict of interest with work he was doing for a private client.

Bauer alleged that Halcro was working with Murkowski to wage a "whisper campaign."

Bauer also accused the borough of potentially breaking the law by leaking to Halcro that Miller is not eligible for rehire. Bauer said the reason Miller isn't eligible for rehire, for a period of time, is because Miller didn't give two weeks' notice for his resignation. He released an e-mail from Borough Attorney Rene Broker to Miller last year saying "given that you are no longer providing two weeks notice it is my understanding that your eligibility for rehire will be affected."

Bauer said Miller has no desire to work under the "leftist administration" at the borough.

Halcro said in an interview he doesn't know anyone at the borough and wasn't leaked information from there. He's a Murkowski supporter but said he wasn't coordinating with her campaign.

Halcro questioned why Miller did not mention his seven years of work for the borough on his campaign biography. "I certainly stand by my blog that this guy was either asked to resign or he was ushered out the door," he said. "Whether he was asked to resign or he was fired, it's the same thing."

Halcro will not reveal who told him that Miller did not leave voluntarily. "The people I spoke to asked not to be recognized. If I recognize my sources than I don't have much of a blog when I write these pieces."

Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.


By SEAN COCKERHAM
scockerham@adn.com