June 16th, 2010
10:00 AM ET
13 years ago

CNN Exclusive: Tea Party Express backs underdog in Alaska GOP Senate battle

Washington (CNN) - The Tea Party Express has ignited somewhat of a political mystery, touting in a statement that it will make a "major endorsement in the 2010 elections" on Wednesday.

CNN has learned who will receive that endorsement: U.S. Senate candidate for Alaska, Joe Miller.

Miller, a lawyer in Fairbanks, Alaska, is mounting a long shot bid to oust Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a popular Republican and part of the GOP leadership in the Senate.

Though Miller has far less name identity in the state, a source tells CNN that the Tea Party Express will pour in resources – including people and money – to help Miller overcome the odds.

The group known for espousing conservative ideals in cross-country bus tours will try to "level the playing field" across Alaska on Miller's behalf, the source said.

The endorsement will also likely deepen a political plotline that has seen some national interest: Conservative favorite, yet controversial figure, Sarah Palin endorsed Miller on June 2 over Murkowski.

In a post on her Facebook page, Palin called Miller a "Commonsense Constitutional Conservative" with integrity and a man who "will never be bought off."

But Palin also blasted fellow Republican Murkowski.

"Unfortunately, Lisa Murkowski and much of the political establishment have recently evolved into being a bigger part of the big government problem in Washington, and they've strayed from the principles upon which they had espoused," Palin wrote. "They ushered in the largest increase in federal domestic spending since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society."

The political rivalry between Palin and Murkowski's family goes back some years. Palin beat the senator's father, then Gov. Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 GOP primary for governor. And when Palin resigned as governor last year, Murkowski was critical.

"I am deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded," said Murkowski.

But in her endorsement of Miller, Palin down played any notion of bad blood between the two women, writing that "such is not the case." "I've always wished her well, but it is my firm belief that we need a bold reformer who is not afraid to stand up to special interests and take on the tough challenges of our time," Palin added.

The Tea Party Express endorsement of Miller follows other recent high-profile scenarios where conservative activists have targeted either sitting Republican lawmakers or GOP candidates favored by the party's establishment. Mark Williams, Chairman of the Tea Party Express, recently told CNN the group is on a "RINO hunt." "Republicans in name only" is a political slur within the GOP often used by staunch conservatives to refer to those deemed not conservative enough.

In May, Utah Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was denied a shot at a fourth term after failing to win enough support at the state party convention. Bennett's loss was partly fueled by an anti-Washington, anti-incumbency wave furthered by the Tea Party movement.

And on June 8 in Nevada, Tea Party Express-backed candidate Sharron Angle overcame long odds, beating GOP establishment favorite Sue Lowden and 11 other candidates in the Senate primary. Before the Tea Party Express backed Angle, she badly trailed Lowden in the polls. After the group poured $550,000 into the Nevada race to support Angle, along with assistance from other conservative groups, the candidate sat atop polls just before the primary. The organization now vows to pump in an additional $1 million+ into the race to help Angle defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Tea Party Express sees a parallel in what it did for Angle, and what it hopes to do for Miller in Alaska.

"This guy is kind of a Sharron Angle type," a source told CNN.

Like Angle, Miller's campaign website states that he opposes financial bailouts and supports repeal of what he calls "Obamacare."

Saying that Miller is "in lock step with the Tea Party" on many issues, the source added that the group will "try and do the same thing we did with Angle."

Filed under: 2010 • Alaska • Joe Miller • Tea Party Express • Tea Party movement
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. LouAnn

    "major endorsement in the 2010 elections"...right, like Alaskan politics are such a major event in this country. As usual, the Tea Party folks are delusional. If it wasn't for Bimbo Palin, unleashed by loser McCain, Alaska would be one of those states no one thinks about or cares about in the political arena. It's a beautiful state, but that's about it.

    June 16, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. ruty

    I am so sick and tired of hearing about the "tea party". Tea partiers --get a hobby and SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 16, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Larry

    I hope all the candidates endorsed by the tea party win their primaries and ousts their fellow republican senators who are already in office. More than half of them stand no chance in a primary, as independent voters never vote for candidates who are too far right or too far left. The tea party will eventually dig the ultimate grave for the GOP.

    June 16, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Nathaniel

    I am absolutely loving the way that the tea party is systematically eliminating any Republican candidate who has any chance of winning and replacing them with long shot not-gonna-happen's. I'm beginning to wonder if the tea party isn't some brilliant creation of the democratic party.

    June 16, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. whatnext

    But can he see Russia from his house?

    June 16, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. works for me

    This "endorsement" is as about effective as a Palin one...
    So... who really cares??

    June 16, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. Brian Dodge

    Murkowski is in Big Oil's pocket, so I won't be sad to see her go.

    Where does the Tea Party stand on the Gulf Oil Spill disaster? Would they see an Obama takeover as "Obamacare" for BP and the oil industry?
    Does the Tea Party think we need more or less regulation of offshore oil drilling?
    Does the Tea Party think the government should step in to help the little guys whose livelihood has been destroyed get just compensation, or should Obama stay out of it and let the shrimp fishermen take on Big Oil on their own?

    Does the Tea Party support "drill, baby, drill", or more solar, wind, and other renewable American energy sources – in other words, should the government spend more tax money preparing to fight the next oil disaster, or spend the money instead on supporting renewable energy, or just quit spending money?

    June 16, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  8. Angel

    The tea party is a bunch of Republicans in disguise. They only back up the Republicans for their agenda. Haven't anyone noticed that ? So now you have, in any election, 2 Republicans vrs 1 Democrat. That should be illegal.

    June 16, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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