Murkowski surprised by Palin primary endorsement

Posted: Monday, July 05, 2010

JUNEAU - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Saturday that she was somewhat surprised former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed her longshot opponent in the state's Aug. 24 Republican primary.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, announced on her Facebook page last month that she was supporting local tea party favorite Joe Miller, calling him a true commonsense conservative.

Palin said there was no tension between her and Murkowski, and the senator echoed that sentiment Saturday in an interview at a Republican picnic in Juneau, saying there were no hard feelings between the two women.

Palin trounced Murkowski's father, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 GOP primary race, which launched Palin's national political career.

When Palin abruptly resigned her governor's post last summer, Lisa Murkowski said she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded." The two also clashed over health care overhaul.

Palin has endorsed candidates in GOP primary races across the country in recent months, including many candidates favored by the tea party movement. When asked whether she believed Palin's endorsement would give Miller's campaign a major boost, Murkowski said that depended on how Palin followed up.

"There are different ways you can help, too," Murkowski said. "We'll see to what extent she's involved in this particular primary."

Miller is expecting help from a national tea party group, the Tea Party Express, which has pledged to devote its "full attention and resources" toward defeating Murkowski, considered to be a moderate.

The group has said it's willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect Miller, a Fairbanks attorney and self-styled "constitutional conservative" who is making his first statewide run for public office.

Miller, who served as an acting state District Court judge and a U.S. magistrate judge, unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat in 2004.

Murkowski, the first woman elected to Congress from Alaska, has $2 million in campaign funds. She said Saturday that she believes that much of Palin's stated support for Miller has to do with the personal relationship between the Palin and Miller families.

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