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Miller recalls Kansas roots for hometown paper

Chris Hunter

SALINA, Kan.-- For Joe Miller, there is little to do but wait and hope the more than 20,000 potential absentee ballots secure his victory against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaskan Republican Senate primary.

Up by more than 1,600 votes, the Kansas native is shaking things up in the state he calls home and hoping to pull the U.S. out of the "entitlement state."

"I'm very concerned about the fiscal state of the nation," Miller said in a phone interview with the Journal on Saturday. "It doesn't take much to see the system is broken and unsustainable. We need to increase the power to the states and take it out of the hands of the federal government."

If Miller holds off Murkowski, he will take on Democrat Scott McAdams in the general election.

Recently, Miller's campaign has shaken the country and come into the national spotlight, but it did not surprise him.

"Having been involved in politics before, I knew a microscope would come on to me," Miller said. "It is to be expected and it is rough on our family, but we are committed to be getting this ship righted."

Who is Joe Miller?

Born in Osborne, Miller said his family lived in Glen Elder and moved to Salina in 1971.

"I grew up in farm country," Miller said. "I liked the wide-open spaces and the quail and pheasant hunting."

Miller said he had always been interested in politics, but really started getting involved in high school when he participated in debate, forensics and student congress.

After graduating from Salina Central High School, Miller accepted an appointment to West Point where he began his training in the U.S. Army.

Miller graduated from West Point in 1989 and attended platoon leader certification training at Fort Knox before joining up with the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley.

From Fort Riley, Miller would head off to fight in the first Gulf War from December 1990 through summer 1991. When he returned home, Miller decided to attended Yale Law School.

"I had a choice of Yale, Harvard and Chicago," Miller said. "I felt it was a better school, and it fit my options better. I was very pleased with my decision."

During his time at Yale, Miller began seeking places to clerk and applied in Anchorage and Wichita between his second and third years at the school. Miller said he was accepted to clerk at both places, but chose to move to Alaska.

"It was hard leaving Kansas, but Alaska has caused the heartache to be much less pronounced," Miller said.

While he moved to Alaska, Miller took his love of farm country with him, purchasing a 1,000-acre farm that is not currently in production.

Another love he has taken with him is hunting, a reason he still comes back to Kansas every "four or five years."

After he moved to Alaska, Miller began his political career after being appointed a state magistrate. He was then appointed an acting state district court judge and magistrate judge in Fairbanks.

Miller than stepped down from the position to run for state representative in 2004.

"I almost pulled off an upset of a Democrat in a heavily Democratic district," Miller said.

He was then elected district chair of the Republican party and eventually a regional chairman of the party in Alaska.

Miller said he made the decision to run for office after he became increasingly concerned with the direction the nation was taking.

"My view is we have little time to save the nation," Miller said.

Miller said he finally made the decision to run on April 19, Lexington and Concord Day, after getting permission from his wife, Kathleen, a native of Junction City.

"She said 'you can do it, Joe,'" Miller said.

Miller said the problems in the country have been created under Republicans and Democrats.

While the election is close, Miller believes his criticism of the party and the fact that he is an outsider is reason for concern.

"I am concerned about the NRSC sending lawyers in to interfere with the integrity of this race in Alaska," Miller said.

While he was not backed by some "party" Republicans, Miller was backed by Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and other elected officials in the state.

"People don't understand Alaska," Miller said. "Alaska has a small state population, and an active volunteer effort is important. Sarah Palin was also pivotal in this election. What it boils down to is a race in Alaska turns on the volunteer network more than anything else. Alaskans love their freedom and love this nation. They don't want to see it go the way of the extreme socialist position."

Even though he has not been officially certified the winner, Miller believes he will prevail and Murkowski will not try to campaign against him and, in the end, back him.

But the Democrats are already starting to target Miller calling him "dangerous" in ads.

"The Democrats are dangerous," Miller said. "Their agenda will be a catastrophe to the nation. They are totally out of touch with the commonsense views of Americans. The Democratic vision is the wrong direction."

While he said the media would not give him a shot and were not paying attention in the beginning, Miller said he hoped his election would have an impact, not just in Alaska, but across the nation.

"We hoped, when we won, it would have a national impact to get the federal government out of our business," Miller said. "We need to reduce the role of the federal government and enhance the role of the states and people. This requires a nationwide movement."

While his grandmother, who lived in Salina, believed Miller would be president, Miller said that is not what his campaign is about.

"It is about providing leadership for Alaska," Miller said. "I want to help guide us out of the age of entitlement."


By CHRIS HUNTER
The Salina (Kansas) Journal