Tea Party Express Returns to Alaska for Joe Miller

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JUNEAU, Alaska — The national tea party group that helped overthrow U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary is back in Alaska, vowing for a repeat defeat 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.

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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.

The party 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 and to be ready. 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" is trying to "take our seat."

Murkowski has called Tea Party Express an outside "extremist" group that "hijacked" the state GOP. Alaska's Republican party has come out in support of Miller, though the running of both Miller and Murkowski has called rifts. Kremer said Murkowski's primary war chest included significant money from outside Alaska, in the form of PAC contributions.

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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.