Huffpost Politics

Lisa Murkowski's Defeat In Alaska Primary Marks Major Tea Party Win

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Ten days ago, Scott McAdams had a volunteer treasurer and a few thousand dollars to help him pursue the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator in Alaska.

With the shocking upset victory by tea party darling Joe Miller over U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the Republican nomination, volunteers and money are flowing his way.

A pair of staffers from the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, are taking leave to assist the campaign. McAdams has hired a spokeswoman.

The Democratic Senatorial Candidate Committee is polling in Alaska to find out if their money would be well-spent backing McAdams, the mayor of Sitka.

Wednesday evening, McAdams was listed among the top fundraisers on ActBlue.com, which helps Democrats set up fundraising campaigns for candidates, with $76,117 in donations. McAdams expects his campaign to have collected $100,000 by end of the week as Alaskans pitch in to help him defeat the Republican endorsed by former Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Things are ramping up," McAdams said Wednesday in an interview at a picnic table in Anchorage's Elderberry Park.

He will face a Republican who until a few months ago was also a political unknown.

Miller is a Fairbanks attorney, a West Point graduate and a decorated Gulf War veteran. He cast Murkowski as too liberal and part of the problem in an out-of-control Washington. He won the endorsement of Palin and was subsequently backed financially by the Tea Party Express.

Miller on Tuesday night repeated his contention that the answer to the country's financial solvency crisis is to transfer power and holdings back to the states.

Alaska has long depended on federal largesse, Miller said, but could work toward self-reliance with more control of its own resources and a reduction in federal regulatory burdens.

Senate Democrats quickly lumped Miller into what it's calling the "Tea Party Set" with Senate Republican hopefuls Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Ken Buck of Colorado and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Democratic Senatorial Candidate Committee spokesman Deirdre Murphy said Miller wants to end Social Security and Medicare, joining other "right-wing insurgents" dangerously outside the mainstream of their states.

She would not comment on whether the committee plans to help McAdams financially. McAdams said he has not heard from the group.

"The national Democrats don't even know my name," he said. "I'm not sure how they operate or what they're up to. This campaign is about Alaska and about Alaskans and putting Alaskans to work. I would suspect that there are elements of my agenda that are completely off the radar of the national Democrats."

McAdams, a former commercial fisherman, said he never considered himself a sacrificial lamb, even though Murkowski's campaign had collected $2.4 million a month before the primary. Early on, he said, he suspected Miller could be the nominee with Palin's endorsement.

With only about $20,000 in hand, McAdams did much of his preprimary campaigning by phone. Miller's emergence prompted him to take leave without pay from his job as community schools director to campaign full time.

The U.S. Senate, McAdams said, has been frozen by the partisanship. The country needs bipartisanship, not someone looking to annihilate the opposition.

McAdams said his message will be that Alaska can develop its resources with measures now in place.

"We need to make the case to liberals, to the environmental movement, to anyone who will listen, that Alaska is the green choice in a global marketplace," he said.

State politicians for years have pushed and failed to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum drilling. A new argument is needed, McAdams said, perhaps increasing Alaska's share of revenue from federal leases and creating a fund to encourage renewable energy in the state, where villages strewn across roadless wilderness are part of Alaska's 150 stand-alone utility grids, many burning diesel.

"We could create a laboratory for renewable energy for the planet," he said. "We could use ANWR as a cash machine to transform the way that we do renewable energy at the local level. The things that we would learn, the mistakes that we would make, the innovations that we would come up with, through that effort, could be a blueprint for the world."