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Conservative star Miller ran as a moderate before

Posted: Friday, October 08, 2010

Two Alaska politicians who knew Republican candidate Joe Miller before almost anyone else in Alaska say the Miller they were familiar with wasn't the one they're reading about in the media now.

But that's not always a compliment.

Miller ran for office once before in Alaska, in 2004, for the Legislature from Fairbanks. He won in the Republican primary, but lost in the general. The Empire spoke with his two opponents from those races.

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, defeated Miller in the general election, after Miller had defeated Republican Tom Scarborough in his party's primary. Miller later changed his voter registration to "nonpartisan," but changed back to "Republican" before his Senate run.

Miller ran as a conservative in the primary, said Scarborough.

"Joe's a fiscal and a social conservative," he said.

Scarborough said they and the Republicans in the district agreed on the issues, but that Miller out-worked him during the campaign.

"Joe had more energy than I did," he said.

That was in the Republican primary.

Guttenberg said they saw a different candidate in the November general election, in which he was running for re-election for the first time in House District 8.

In the district based around the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Miller moved towards the middle, Guttenberg said.

"He worked on not revealing who he was," Guttenberg said. "I think he was a chameleon."

Miller's campaign did not return calls Wednesday or Thursday for this story.

What may be surprising to those who see Miller's right-wing views now was how moderate he appeared in 2004.

Among the issues Miller addressed then was support for more government spending on education, especially the university.

On a candidate questionnaire at the time, Miller listed his legislative priorities as education (K-12, university), public health, public safety, resource development and transportation assets, in that order.

The questionnaire was put out by a university group, and most of the questions revolved around university funding. Miller was in favor of everything.

One issue on which Miller offered support was for "needs-based scholarships," which he said should be supported with state general funds.

That's been a long-time hope of student leaders which failed again in the last legislative session.

Miller also said he'd support using general fund money to make up a shortfall in public employee retirement programs and borrowing money for more to build more classroom and research facilities.

"The university is the 'crown jewel' of district 8," he wrote. "Funding this educational and economic powerhouse will be one of my top priorities."

Guttenberg said the positions Miller took during that campaign are in contrast with positions he's taking today, such as shrinking government.

"We spent a lot of time trying to figure out who this guy was because he hadn't been here," Guttenberg said.

In 2004 Miller warned that "Much of our economy is propped up by federal dollars that could dry-up at anytime," but he didn't say then he'd be trying to make sure that happened.

Guttenberg said he was convinced Miller moved to his district to run against him because he was the only Democrat in the area, and wanted the seat as a platform with which to run for higher office.

"He thinks the world of himself," he said.

Guttenberg said he didn't know whether Miller believed what he was saying in 2004, or was just saying it to get elected.

"He might have gotten worse in the last six years," he said.

Scarborough said that despite Miller's more moderate views in campaign against Guttenberg, he has no doubt that Miller is the conservative he says he is.

"He's a good, honest Christian," he said. "I'm helping him raise money."

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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