Sen. Lisa Murkowski hopes to keep her job by running as a write-in, and to do that, Republican Murkowski is focusing her campaign on Republican nominee Joe Miller, instead of Democratic nominee Scott McAdams.
Miller's anti-government rhetoric risks damaging Alaska, Murkowski said, prompting her to continue her campaign despite her primary loss.
"The answer is not always to throw the system out, the answer is to fix the system," she said.
Murkowski visited Juneau Friday on a campaign trip following her decision to continue her campaign. While in Juneau she spoke with the Empire, along with opening a campaign office in the KJNO building on Channel Drive.
Alaska's congressional delegation has long used earmarks to help bring a disproportionate share of federal spending to the state. Murkowski's role in that process was the subject of attacks by the California-based Tea Party Express, which spent more than one-half a million dollars in the primary backing Miller.
In Juneau, Murkowski came out swinging to defend the use of earmarks, a strategy pioneered by the late Sen. Ted Stevens to build the new state.
"So much of the research dollars who come into our university system are earmark dollars," she said. University of Alaska research is one of the key strengths of the Alaska economy.
Federal research is also important to the state's fisheres.
"We know that we're the envy of the rest of the country because of how we've been managing our fisheries," she said.
That's an area at risk if Miller's stated view the federal government should not be involved in activities that are not enumerated, or specifically authorized, by the U.S. Constitution, she said.
"In order to manage our fisheries you have to understand what's going on, and in order to pay for the science you need the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but NOAA is not enumerated under the Constitution," she said.
"So what do you do, just say 'No more funding NOAA?'" Murkowski asked.
She said the comments she's received from Alaskans since the primary that convinced her to continue her campaign lead her to believe some Republican primary voters who thought they were casting a protest vote may be having some "buyer's remorse," after learning more about Miller.
"Some of the answers or solutions that he has proposed will set Alaska back, at a time we can least afford to be set back," she said.
She said it is ironic that pro-Miller primary ads that accused her of voting against Republican leadership positions 300 times often included pro-Alaska issues such as protecting the state's military bases.
At the same time, Murkowski cast votes, nine times, she said, against farm subsidies that have outlived whatever usefulness they may once have had.
"I think farm subsidies are an area of federal spending that we can clearly, clearly, work to reduce and then eliminate," she said. "I understand the history there, but they're just kind of continuing on autopilot now."
Those votes against farm subsidies became particularly interesting after the Alaska Dispatch website reported Miller himself received farm subsidy payments for investment property he owned in Kansas.
Miller had earlier given a strong denial that he'd received subsidy payments for land he owns near Delta Junction, but had made statements Murkowski called "quite evasive" about farm payments in general.
"He talks a pretty tough line about how the federal government should not be supporting this ... but in his own life he's receiving government support," she said.
Alaska Natives are showing strong support for Murkowski, including former Juneau mayor and former Sealaska Corp. CEO Byron Mallott joining as campaign co-chairman.
Murkwoski said much of the federal involvement in Alaska is in its rural communities, where the need is greatest.
"People aren't asking for streetlights and sidewalks, they're asking for basic needs to be met," she said, things like health clinics and sewer systems.
• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.