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Alaska Senate contender calls for 'belt tightening'

The national debt requires less reliance on federal resources, says Joe Miller, who leads Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,668 votes after the GOP primary. Thousands more ballots will be counted this week.

August 30, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Joe Miller, the surprise leader in Alaska's unresolved Republican Senate primary, said Sunday that the growing national debt requires a "belt tightening" that should include cutting back on federal dollars that his state receives.

Miller's position, which he articulated throughout his campaign against incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, comes despite Alaska's historic reliance on federal resources to develop the state's vast territory.

"The government is going bankrupt. I don't think anybody can deny it," he said Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation." "I think the answer to this is to basically transfer the responsibilities and power of government back to the states and the people. That is really the only answer, I think, out of this crisis."

Miller leads Murkowski by 1,668 votes after Tuesday's election, but tens of thousands of ballots have yet to be counted.

The Alaska Division of Elections reported Saturday that it had yet to tabulate 23,472 ballots, including nearly 14,000 absentees and more than 9,000 questioned and disputed ballots. Those ballots are from the GOP primary as well as other contests held last week in Alaska. None will be opened and counted before Tuesday.

Miller continues to accuse Murkowski and the National Republican Senatorial Committee of "meddling" in the race, setting the stage for a potential legal dispute.

"Alaskans won't stand for any post-election foul play," Miller said in a statement this weekend.

An NRSC spokesman said the organization dispatched its general counsel, Sean Cairncross, to the state at Murkowski's request to advise her campaign about the coming vote count. Cairncross has already returned to Washington.

"We've made clear to both campaigns that whichever candidate is chosen as the nominee, they will have our full support," said Brian Walsh, the NRSC spokesman.

Murkowski has called Miller's allegation of potential tampering "paranoid."

"We want to make sure that every Alaskan's vote counts in this election. Mr. Miller shouldn't be afraid of what the voters still have to say about this race," she said in a statement.

Miller says the NRSC should not be devoting any additional resources on Murkowski's behalf since she has not ruled out staying in the race as a candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket.

A survey released Sunday by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling firm showed Miller leading Democratic nominee Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka, 47% to 39%. Murkowski would lead McAdams 60% to 28%. In a three-way race, Murkowski would lead with 38% to Miller's 34%, with McAdams trailing at 22%.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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