Atty Joe Miller (R) “acknowledged” on 10/7 “that in the past his family received assistance from federal Medicaid and Denali KidCare, the state low-income health care program. His opponents in the race responded that he’s a hypocrite for taking assistance while now saying federal entitlement programs are unconstitutional. Miller’s campaign didn’t provide an answer for the past week-and-a-half when asked what low-income assistance he has received. But Miller addressed” the question “when asked by reporters after a debate in Anchorage, saying people are entitled to know about his past benefits but ‘it’s a bit of a distraction from where we’re at today.’”
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Miller: “I have the same sort of struggles in my past that other people have had. There is a proper role for government. The question is, who controls the power, is it at the federal level or the state level? It’s our perspective that the state is the best arbiter, the state’s the best point at which we make those decisions. Because it gets us closer to the people.”
Miller said he has not been on government assistance “for years” (Cockerham, Anchorage Daily News, 10/8).
During the debate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) “took aim at” Miller’s “contention that the era of earmarks is dead, saying aid to further build infrastructure in this still-young state is vital, not pork.”
Murkowski suggested — “to loud applause — that if such cuts are to be made, perhaps the best place to start looking to make them is in the Lower 48.”
The event was focused on AK Native issues, “with the candidates agreeing on the need to improve the rural economy and provide for more reliable energy — just differing, in some cases, on how to get there.”
Murkowski and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D), “for example, talked about a focus on boosting renewable energy to help build up local communities and create jobs. Miller said options, including nuclear, shouldn’t be precluded or overlooked.”
“A big issue was money. Miller, who believes the powers of the federal government should be limited to those spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, has argued that federal deficits are crippling, Washington is out of control” and AK “must be weaned off its heavy reliance on federal help and given greater control of its own resources.”
Miller “said a new day is coming” and AK “needs to be prepared. While the past few decades have been a blessing, he said — a period in which members” of AK’s delegation “brought home billions in federal aid and projects — it’s a ‘dream’ to think that will continue. He believes the fights should be waged during the appropriations process.”
But McAdams, like Murkowski, “argued the need” for AK “to continue fighting for what he calls its fair share. Murkowski stressed her seniority as critical to helping to ensure” AK’s “voice is heard.”
McAdams “questioned whether Murkowski, who’d built a reputation as a centrist but has shifted further right, had put party over policy the last few years. Murkowski has attributed this to her concerns about the direction the country was heading” under the Dems (Bohrer, AP, 10/7).
“After a long delay,” Miller “has filed his financial disclosure paperwork” on 10/7.
Miller “should have turned his form in some time this spring, when he had exceeded” $5K in campaign donations. “He never turned one in, though — an omission that the campaign said previously was unintentional.”
The disclosure document shows Miller made $59K from his law firm and $38K from the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The disclosure forms also list 21 legal clients who paid him more than $5K.
The “forms also show that Miller owes himself between” $100K and $250K for a campaign loan.
“According to his disclosure, Miller has a substantial amount of credit card debt. That debt includes between” $35K and $80K “on three separate revolving charge accounts.”
He “also owes a student loan” valued at $15K to $50K (Bolstad, Anchorage Daily News, 10/7).
Heard Of Joe The Plumber, But Now We’ve Got Joe The Leaker
The “angry online exchange” between Todd Palin and Miller that “surfaced this week” was “inadvertently” leaked by the Miller camp. Miller “intended to forward the e-mail last month from an irate Palin to a few of his campaign advisers, but” he “accidentally plugged into the wrong e-mail address for one of the recipients.” As a result, “the juicy e-mail message” was “posted for the entire world to see” on a political blog.
Instead of typing an e-mail address ending in his campaign’s domain “@joemiller.us,” Miller typed out an address ending in “@joemiller.com.” JoeMiller.com is “a simple blog with one paragraph of text” and is unrelated to the Miller SEN camp. The domain owner received the email, and leaked it. He also “alluded that he had some ‘other information’” about Miller.
Domain owner: “Let’s let the general election play out, then I’ll add more information. I don’t want anything said here to influence the outcome, and the other information I have might do that” (Toeplitz, Politico, 10/7).
Pay Up Or Shut Up?
Murkowski “slammed” Miller 10/7 “for being a month late in paying his property taxes.” Murkowski spokesperson Steve Wackowski in a statement: “It is odd that Joe Miller, a candidate who wants states to have to assume a host of costly administrative burdens, from managing unemployment insurance benefits to education aid, is so careless about paying for local government services. … It is odd that he is denying local government the means to afford to assume the burdens he wants placed on them” (Freiberg/Richardson, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 10/7).
Susan B. Anthony’s Song
“Anti-abortion” Susan B. Anthony’s List “is backing” Miller in the race, and “launching a” $10K “weeklong radio ad campaign.” The group is known for “supporting anti-abortion female candidates,” but List pres. Marjorie Dannenfelser “says the Washington-D.C. group” also “says it will look to support a male candidate who shares its beliefs” if “a female candidate” is “undermining” the anti-abortion cause (AP, 10/7).
One way to explain Sen. Richard Lugar’s loss to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in this week’s Indiana Republican primary is to attribute it to a tea party takeover of the GOP. A second explanation is that a venerable public servant overstayed his welcome and ran for reelection one time too many. A third is that Lugar was too focused on international relations and grew too distant from his state — that he didn’t keep his political fences mended back home.
The fact is, all three factors contributed to Lugar’s defeat. To put too much weight on any one reason is too convenient. The end result is that one of the serious adults in Congress, a real statesman, won’t be coming back. It isn’t a surprise to those watching his race; the signs had been apparent for some time.
Although there certainly was an ideological component to Lugar’s loss, his defeat was not as ideologically focused as, say, the ouster of then-GOP Sen. Robert Bennett two years ago in Utah. Lugar’s detractors had no single lightning-rod issue to hurl against him, in the way that Bennett’s vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program killed him in 2010. In Lugar’s case, ideology just combined with the other factors to doom his reelection.
Hostility toward Washington is widespread, particularly among conservative Republican primary voters. Lugar’s decision to seek a seventh Senate term was risky. Several months ago, a prominent GOP pollster, not involved in the Indiana race and not specifically addressing the Hoosier State, railed on and on to me about the hostility that he saw among GOP primary voters. He warned that some Republican incumbents would go down in their primaries — members who normally might not have any trouble at all. Voters of all ideological stripes express frustration with Washington these days, but conservatives harbor an intense dislike that far surpasses other voters’ disapproval. For these conservatives, seniority is a disqualification, not a reason to reelect an incumbent.
Finally, the sin of being too focused on issues beyond Indiana’s borders caught up with Lugar, just as it did with previous Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairmen — J. William Fulbright of Arkansas (1974), Frank Church of Idaho (1980), and Charles Percy of Illinois (1984). The heady world of international relations can pull a senator far from voters back home. Going to innumerable county bean suppers and showing up in every corner of the state once a year or so no longer seems as exhilarating as discussing the vital issues of the planet with world leaders. A Republican friend of mine, a very loyal Lugar supporter, warned me many months ago that he was afraid that far too many of Indiana’s 92 county Republican chairs had never met their senior senator.
Probably 30 years ago, I recall hearing a press secretary to then-Sen. Joe Biden describe how on snowy days, Biden’s office would ask each of the Delaware radio stations to add to their list of school closings and other inclement-weather announcements the message that “Senator Joe Biden’s mobile office will not be making its normal rounds today.” The office could very well have been up on blocks that day getting an overhaul. The point is that not only did Biden go home to Delaware every night, he and his office were also omnipresent in the state. If a member of Congress is going to focus on foreign policy, it certainly behooves that lawmaker to be all over his or her state or district like a cheap suit.
For Lugar, the lack of a real Indiana residence, a regular place to lay his head at night, became the piÃ¨ce de résistance: It was the one thing that wrapped all his other problems up and tied them with a bow. How much could a one-bedroom condo in Indianapolis cost? The symbolism was devastating; it became the smoking gun.
Now what happens to Lugar’s seat? Although President Obama carried Indiana in 2008 and Democrats had a pretty good run there for a while, Republicans have won nearly every statewide race in recent years. Polling in March showed a general-election matchup between Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic nominee, to be competitive. A March 12-15 Global Strategies Group poll for the Donnelly campaign put the Democrat ahead by 6 points, 34 percent to 28 percent; a Libertarian Party candidate, Andrew Horning, pulled 8 percent. A March 26-28 Howey Political Report/DePauw Indiana Battleground poll of 503 likely general-election voters, conducted jointly by Democratic polling firm Garin-Hart Strategic Research and Republican firm Bellwether Research, put the race dead even: 35 percent each, with Horning at 7 percent.
The state’s long-standing Republican tendencies appear to be resurfacing. But to what extent will bruised feelings or even scar tissue from this very traumatic primary counter that trend? Defeating an incumbent in a primary by 20 points, 60 percent to 40 percent, is certainly an impressive feat. And this isn’t Mourdock’s first big statewide win. He rolled up a massive victory in the state treasurer’s race two years ago. At the same time, Donnelly is a far better candidate than might be expected in such a Republican-leaning state in a presidential year. This contest is more competitive than it should be.
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