The Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp has voted to endorse Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in bid for the United States Senate.
Meeting in the village of Saxman, near Ketchikan, the state's oldest civil rights organization Wednesday called on Alaska voters to make history by electing a write-in candidate.
The vote was "near unanimous, and set off a rambunctious celebration," said Juneau's Brad Fluetsch, ANB grand treasurer.
Murkowski narrowly lost her Republican Party re-nomination bid to challenger Joe Miller in the August primary, and has since mounted a spirited campaign to stay in office, mostly targeted at Miller.
She appeared at Grand Camp convention by teleconference, and spoke with delegates from Tlingit and Haida communities about issues such as affordable energy, customary and traditional gathering of food, Indian health services and the creation of jobs through economic development in rural Alaska, Fluetsch said.
Murkowski has also been a strong backer of the Sealaska land bill, in which the Juneau-based Regional Native Corporation has been seeking to change the areas from which it can selects its remaining lands. Miller has spoken against it.
Fluetsch said he doubted the Sealaska bill played a role in the endorsement decision.
"I really don't think that had had much to do with it," he said. "In this group, Indian health services, subsistence and rural energy were really the key issues."
Murkowski has used her clout to support rural economic development, he said
"If we are going to get Southeast economies going, we'll need hydro and we need transmission lines," Fluetsch said.
Miller has fought back hard against the Murkowski challenge with the backing of tea party groups from California and elsewhere.
Somewhat lost in the din of battle has been Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee. First the Miller victory, and then Murkowski's entry into the race, energized his campaign and gave supporters hope he might have a chance in a state with a strong Republican voter registration margin.
The state's traditional Democratic base, however, has long included Alaska Natives. Losing that segment of supporters to Murkowski could hamper the Sitka Democrat's chances.
McAdams spokesperson Heather Handyside said the McAdams campaign hasn't given up on winning Native votes.
"Scott will continue to reach out to Native Alaskans across the state, because it is individuals who vote," she said.
The ANB/ANS Grand Camp joins other Native efforts to support Murkowski. The group Alaskans Standing Together is being supported by Native Corporations, and Alaska Federation of Natives Co-chairman Albert Kookesh was one of the featured speakers at Murkowski's announcement of a write-in campaign.
"Regardless of what organizations or corporations decide to endorse, Scott McAdams believes in earning people's votes one person at a time," Handyside said.
Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto did not return phone or e-mail messages Wednesday.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey @juneauempire.com.
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