Alaska’s race for the U.S. Senate is an interesting one. Unlike most other states, there are three major candidates: Democrat Scott McAdams, Republican Joe Miller, and in a political twist, incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who is running as a write-in candidate.
McAdams started his campaign at such a disadvantage in both fundraising and support that it is unlikely he’ll make much of a dent in this race. Incumbent Murkowski lost the primary to Miller, but she is making such a strong showing as a write-in candidate that she is actually within striking distance of her party rival. What looked at first like a surefire win for Miller is now going to go down to the wire.
Candidates for Senator of Alaska (six-year term)
Candidate: Joe Miller
Political experience: Miller served as a United States Magistrate Judge from 2002 to 2004. He campaigned for the Alaska House of Representatives in 2004, but lost to the incumbent.
Professional experience: Miller was a tank platoon leader in the first Gulf War. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1992 and from the U.S Army Reserves in 1997. He has been an attorney since 1995, and he currently owns his own law practice in Fairbanks.
Key issues: Miller focuses on his website on the limitation of the powers of the federal government to what he calls “constitutional” levels. He heavily opposes cap and trade policies to offset energy costs, and he is in favor of immediately repealing the federal health care reform.
Endorsements: Miller is endorsed by the FreedomWorks PAC, many Tea Party politicians and Sen. John McCain, among others.
Chances of winning the seat: It’s a toss-up. While McAdams has chipped away at his lead, this race is really between Miller and Murkowski. Murkowski has gone on the attack to portray Miller as dishonest and possibly unethical, and it has worked for her. Now that Rasmussen and other outlets show them in a tie, expect to see Miller to continue to counter-attack by painting Murkowski as part of the reason that Alaska isn’t doing well economically, and to imply that she’s a supporter of unpopular Democratic policies.
Candidate: Scott McAdams
Political experience: McAdams is the current mayor of Sitka, Alaska, having been elected to the post in 2008. He served on the Sitka School Board from 2002 to 2008.
Professional experience: An educator, McAdams is currently on leave from his post as director of Sitka Community Schools while he campaigns for the U.S. Senate. He was previously also a commercial fisherman.
Key issues: McAdams focuses on his website on boosting the economy through better educational systems and wise use of resources. He wants to strengthen Alaska’s colleges and universities, as well as training and technical programs. He also wants to develop Alaska’s ability to be a hub for renewable energy resources.
Endorsements: McAdams is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, among others.
Chances of winning the seat: He has a small chance. McAdams is campaigning as a Democrat in a heavily Republican-leaning state. He also had the added disadvantage of being far behind his opponents in fund raising and public support. While McAdams is polling in the double digits like his opponents, this race is between Murkowski and Miller. Look for McAdams to spend the next two weeks trying to portray his opponents as being out-of-touch with Alaskans to gain much-needed ground.
Candidate: Lisa Murkowski
Party: Republican (write-in candidate)
Political experience: Murkowski is the current incumbent of this U.S. Senate seat, a position she has held since she was appointed to it as replacement senator in 2002 by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. She was a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 2000 to 2002, serving the 18th District, and from 1998 to 2000, serving the 14th District.
Professional experience: An attorney, Murkowski first worked in the Anchorage District Court Clerk’s office from 1987 to 1989. She worked in a private practice from 1989 to 1998, when she won her first political post in the Alaska House of Representatives.
Key issues: The first three issues Murkowski tackles on her website are the economy, fiscal conservatism and the Second Amendment. She wants to boost the economy by extending the 2001 income tax credit and investing in the domestic-energy sector. She is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, and she has worked in the past to eliminate the firearms bans in National Parks and large cities like Chicago.
Endorsements: Murkowski is endorsed by the NEA, the United Fishermen of Alaska and the Marine Conservation Alliance, among others.
Chances of keeping her seat: This race is now a dead heat between her and Joe Miller, who defeated her to win the Republican primary. She needs to grab more of Miller’s supporters in order to keep her seat, so look for her to continue to paint him as dishonest and possibly corrupt.
Key Differences between Joe Miller, Scott McAdams and Lisa Murkowski
Jobs: Miller wants to encourage job creation by limiting the federal government’s involvement and scaling back its powers, ceding more control to individual states. Murkowski also wants to reduce the influence of the federal government, with a focus on decreasing costs for small businesses. McAdams also believes that the key to job creation is small business, and he wants to focus on business incentives and tax cuts to make running those businesses easier.
Health care: Murkowski opposes the federal health care reform as a whole, but she supports certain aspects like prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or placing caps on how much they will pay to treat a specific health problem. McAdams is focusing on the difficulty some Alaskans experience with finding health care at all, due to doctor shortages in the state. He wants to invest in programs like Denali Kidcare and Medicare expansion for seniors. Miller opposes the federal health care reform and wants to repeal it to start over. He favors a market-based system that he believes will lower costs by encouraging competition.
Education: McAdams is very focused on education, and he wants to streamline No Child Left Behind to give Alaska more individual control over its schools. He wants to increase funding for special-needs programs and invest more into technical training programs and Alaska’s colleges and universities. Miller wants to reduce the influence of federal government across the board, including in the educational system, starting with the Department of Education itself. Murkowski is a proponent of No Child Left Behind, but wants to reshape to fit the needs of individual states. She is also a supporter of Native language immersion programs and early-education initiatives like Head Start.
2004 Results: Murkowski defeated Democrat Tony Knowles, 48.58 percent to 45.55 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 65.8 percent of the state is white, 13.1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 5.8 percent Hispanic, 4.5 percent Asian and 3.2 percent black.