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Ex-lawmaker quits primary challenge

Posted: June 25, 2014 - 12:03am

FAIRBANKS — Former state Senate President Mike Miller has withdrawn his primary challenge to Sen. Click Bishop, saying it would be divisive to the Republican Party.

Miller said he decided that challenging an incumbent would create an unnecessary “distraction” as Republicans focus on trying to win the high-stakes race for U.S. Senate.

He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he and Bishop have had “substantial conversations” during the last two weeks, and they agree more than they disagree on issues like state spending and resource development.

His exit leaves Bishop, a former state labor commissioner first elected in 2012, without a primary challenger. Bishop is slated to face Democrat Dorothy Shockley in November.

In 2012, Bishop emerged from an expensive, contentious three-way primary, in which the candidates raised more than $250,000. Both Bishop and former state lawmaker Ralph Seekins, the highest-profile candidates in that race, raised about $120,000 each, with Seekins funding part of his campaign himself. Seekins was considered more of a traditional conservative, while Bishop had strong backing from labor and individual contributions from across the political spectrum. In the end, Bishop won easily.

He became part of the new Republican majority in the Senate but was seen as a pivotal vote on a number of major issues. He supported the oil tax cut, which narrowly passed the Senate in 2013. But he opposed a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow public money to be used for private and religious schools and another proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed the makeup of the Alaska Judicial Council.

Miller, in a news release sent to the paper, said he is convinced that Bishop “will continue to serve our district well.”

He is the second former lawmaker to decide against challenging Bishop. Former state Rep. Alan Dick filed a letter of intent to run but withdrew his name before the candidate-filing deadline.

Miller served 18 years in the Legislature before leaving in 2000. His future plans include handling business projects at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, which his parents founded and he currently runs.

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