Libertarian option seems to narrow

Posted: Sunday, September 12, 2010

JUNEAU - The door to a third-party run seemed to close a bit more Friday, with Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate David Haase saying he saw no reason to withdraw his candidacy.

Haase told The Associated Press he might rethink his position if Sen. Lisa Murkowski personally asked him to. So far, she hasn't.

Since ceding the GOP primary to Joe Miller last week, Murkowski has been mulling whether to continue on in the race, either as a third-party or write-in candidate, following what she's called an outpouring of support from Alaskans asking her to do so.

But she's also made clear that she has no intent to change her "political stripes," that friends of hers - without her direction - had approached the Libertarians about the possibility of having her on the ticket. She also said it would be up to the party if it wanted her as its candidate.

Party leaders rejected the notion of doing that once but chairman Scott Kolhaas replied "no comment" Thursday when asked if the suggestion was dead. Friday, he said the next move - if there is one - is Murkowski's. "They have to move, and they're expecting us to trust them," he said.

"We're asking Lisa Murkowski to do what we're asking America to do. Which is, basically, we'll forgive and forget as long as they get with the program, which is freedom, limited government," he said.

Haase would have to withdraw by Wednesday for there to be an opening. And that's not the only remaining hurdle to a Libertarian nod: party leaders would have to put Murkowski in his place and there remains opposition against a Murkowski run within the Libertarian party's rank-and-file. Kolhaas said she'd have to join the party and sign a pledge that states she doesn't believe in or advocate the initiation of force for social or political goals.

Murkowski isn't expected to announce her plans until next week.

Should she mount a write-in candidacy, she faces long odds, including the loss of support from within the Republican establishment. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has made clear Miller is its candidate, pledging more than $212,000 to help him get elected, and Miller, the self-described "constitutional conservative" who pulled off his upset win with considerable help from the California-based Tea Party Express, has trotted out a growing list of GOP senators who are endorsing him.

"I'm assuming that it doesn't come as a big surprise," Murkowski campaign manager John Bitney said of the Republicans lining up behind Miller. "That's the nature of the game."

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the committee, also confirmed a Politico report quoting committee chairman Sen. John Cornyn as saying Murkowski would probably lose her leadership position if she mounted a third-party bid. She is vice chair of the Senate Republican conference.

But she also enjoys widespread name recognition in the state, and has shown a prowess for fundraising.

On Friday, there was a flurry of activity from Murkowski after the long public dormancy that followed her Aug. 31 concession speech. Press releases flowed from her Washington press office, and she issued her first tweet since last week: "It's another beautiful day in Alaska."

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