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ANCHORAGE - Political upstart Joe Miller continues to lead incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary race in Alaska. Alaska Democrats couldn't be happier.
Their candidate in the race, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, figured to be a huge underdog against Murkowski. Through June 30, McAdams had raised less than $10,000 in a Democratic primary that featured mostly fringe candidates.
But if Murkowski can't overcome a 1,500-vote deficit through absentee ballots, Democrats like McAdams' chances against Miller, a conservative Fairbanks attorney who describes himself as a "constitutional conservative."
Miller is a darling of the tea party, and Democrats are painting him as an extremist who will not work in Alaska's best interests.
"I believe we are the moderate, rational, practical, common-sense campaign, not the campaign of extreme measures and 19th century ideology," McAdams said Wednesday.
McAdams said he didn't agree with Murkowski on all issues but respected her experience and talent. Miller, he said, distorted Murkowski's record in negative advertising late in the campaign.
"Joe Miller proved he will do just about anything to get elected," McAdams said.
McAdams, a former commercial fisherman, said the Republican primary showed that Alaska was ready for change, but not the kind Miller represents.
"While the Tea Party Express is a national media phenomena, I don't believe it reflects Alaska's values," he said.
He called the movement an extreme version of "the party of no" that will reject federal aid to build Alaska infrastructure. McAdams said he will appeal to Alaska Democrats as well as moderate Republicans to win the general election.
"I believe it's going to take all of our diligence, all of our hard work, to ensure that Joe Miller and the Tea Party Express aren't able to take root in Alaska," he said.
McAdams' campaign has received a Federal Election Commission letter for failing to file a required preprimary report for receipts and expenditures through Aug. 4.
Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins said McAdams is likely to get a financial boost from the national party if Miller represents the GOP and the door opens a crack for a Democrat.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday called Miller "a dangerous enemy to middle-class Alaskans" who would like to "transition out" of Social Security and phase out Medicare.
McAdams said he has given no consideration to stepping down in favor of a better-known Democrat. As of June 1, he said, no one had heard of Miller.
"I've been a locally elected leader for eight years," he said, and the only candidate who's ever balanced a public budget.
As for Miller's campaign tactics, McAdams said he's ready.
"I worked on the deck of a fishing boat," McAdams said. "I can deal with a guy like Joe Miller."