Scott McAdams, the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Alaska against Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, is a burly dark-haired guy who looks every bit the football player he is. He said he got into politics because he was the Sitka, Alaska, high school football coach and had to go before the school board to try to get the then-club program deemed a recognized school sport.
He spent his early years in Petersburg, another town in Southeast Alaska, then moved to central California, where he graduated from high school. McAdams returned to Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherman in Petersburg, Kodiak and out in the Bering Sea before graduating with a degree in secondary education from Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka.
He's been married for 17 years to Romee McAdams, who is the tribal recruitment coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Care Consortium. They have three kids: Kaitlin 16, Chloe 8 and Gavin, 5.
"I get my strength from my family," he said.
McAdams was elected to the school board in 2002 and then two years ago ran and won a three-way race for mayor. He's started touting that experience as an elected official, emphasizing in speeches and interviews that he's the only candidate in the race who's ever cut a public budget or voted on a public budget. Miller, a Fairbanks attorney, has never been elected to office.
McAdams also points to his tenure as president and a member of the Association of Alaska School Boards, his time on the Alaska Municipal League, and his chairmanship of the Southeast Conference of Mayors as giving him a head start on Miller in terms of statewide involvement.
In an interview, McAdams is low-key and deliberate, choosing his words and waiting for a reporter to finish writing them down before moving on. He says that, as a small-town politico and member of nonpartisan boards, he's used to a "greater spirit of collaboration as opposed to partisan bickering" and that he would work to tone down the rhetoric if the voters send him to Washington.
"Washington, D.C., is all about partisanship," he said. "It's about shaming, grandstanding and scapegoating your political opponent to receive chairmanships, as opposed to being driven by mission or vision."
That's a different McAdams than the one who took the podium at the Democrat's Unity Dinner in Anchorage the night after the primary. That McAdams was robust in his partisanship, rousing the crowd like a veteran pol with his roasting of Miller and the Republicans.
Still, McAdams vows to run a clean and decent race that will offer voters a distinct choice between the two men, their personal styles and their politics. "I think Joe Miller has proven in the course of this election that he will say or do almost anything to get elected," he said. "I think he ran a combative campaign against Lisa Murkowski that was unfair, dishonest and both Lisa Murkowski and Alaska deserve better than that."
McAdams hopes people will pay attention to the differences between him and Miller on the issues. He points out that Miller advocates the repeal of Social Security and Medicare, which McAdams does not. While Miller wants to wean Alaska off federal dollars and reduce federal spending overall, McAdams wants the federal government to continue investing in Alaska.
"We certainly do owe it to our kids to do the best we can to live within our means," he said. "Being a steward of our fiscal resources is important. But Alaska is a young state, and it should remain a place where federal dollars are used to develop our infrastructure."
McAdams supports safe development of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as offshore in Alaska's Arctic -- a position other prominent Alaska Democrats hold, even though it runs counter to their national peers. He thinks Alaska's political leaders need to do a better job of convincing people throughout the country that it can be done is an environmentally sound and responsible manner.
"Ultimately, this campaign is going to be about ideas," McAdams said. "I think Joe Miller has been very clear in articulating the things he's opposed to, but I don't see much vision regarding how we develop Alaska."