(CNN) – Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is defending her choice to mount a write-in campaign in the wake of her defeat to a Tea Party-backed candidate, telling CNN’s Candy Crowley she was the victim of a “smear” campaign.
“What happened in my particular race, you had the Tea Party Express, this California-based group, come in at the last minute in a campaign, run a mudslinging, smear - just a terrible, terrible - campaign with lies and fabrications and mischaracterizations,” Murkowski told CNN’s Candy Crowley in an exclusive interview. “They came in, dumped $600,000 into a small market here in Alaska, and they absolutely clearly influenced the outcome.”
Murkowski lost her bid to political novice and Alaska attorney Joe Miller late last month in an upset that stunned national Republicans. But party leaders have since said they are supporting Miller, and have urged Murkowski not to mount a write-in bid. Murkowski herself resigned from her leadership post last week ahead of the write-in decision.
Speaking on CNN, the Alaska Republican said she is not concerned with making the Republican leadership happy.
“I am listening to my constituents. That's what it's all about,” she said. “It's not about trying to make the Republican Party happy … it's trying to respond to the people of the state of Alaska. I'm going to give them a choice.”
Since her announcement of a write-in bid Friday, Murkowski has faced fire from several members of her own party, including Sen. Jim DeMint, who called her a “hypocrite,” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said she was “cheating.”
“It's trying to respond to the people of the state of Alaska,” Murkowski told CNN in response. “I'm going to give them a choice. And if the people on November 2 say, we don't like her, that's fine. But that's part of what we're doing here. That's part of the process as well.”
Murkowski also suggested that DeMint – who has repeatedly supported Tea Party-backed candidates over establishment picks this election cycle – may be waging a civil war within the GOP.
“I think he has made people uncomfortable. I think that he has kind of rattled the cages, whether it advances to a full-on civil war, I don't know. What I’m looking at right now is what's going on in my state. I'm responding to that. And quite honestly, what's happening within the conference is - I’m not focused on that. I'm focused on what's going on here back home,” she said.