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. katiec

    CNN, wish you would stop constantly headlining the tea partiers.
    Just like with Palin, the majority of American voters could care less what these irresponsible, radicals think.
    Gosh, you headlines today are mostyly about the right. What a surprise

    June 16, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  2. Jeff in Virginia

    Where does the Tea Party Express get money to do this sort of thing?

    This is astro-turf.

    June 16, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. Don of Iowa

    Here we go again, the tea party supporting yet another loser in the upcoming elections, this time for another Senator that should leave the door wide open for a strong Democrat challenge. If this group keeps it up the House and Senate will be 99% Democratic, none of these loons they keep picking stand a chance making it in a mainstream election. But hey, they get to be heard, they would be better off not getting heard because they are showing how incredibly stupid and nieve they truly are, in other words just a bunch of loser Republicans of the foulest and most extreme right.

    June 16, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "try and do the same thing we did with Angle."

    Please do. You gave Reid his job back. Maybe we can replace that moron Murkowski with a liberal too.

    June 16, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. No-sense makes nonsense

    Democrats and Progressives you better get off your duff and get out in mass if you don't want this country to head down the path of a fundamentalism seen in Zionism and radical Islam.

    The Constitution of the United States came from the Enlightenment not from restrictive beliefs.

    In the first paragraph of our Constitution the Federal Government is We The People and We The People agree to protect 'The Welfare' of ourselves in whatever form we believe is right. When people believe the Federal Government should be weak and anything it does to protect 'the welfare' is socialism it is those people who are tearing about this great country.

    It is time for those who believe in Social Democracies to stand up and be counted ... do it in a civil manner but wake up and stand up.

    June 16, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  6. Dean

    What Sarah doesn't have her nose in this race too

    June 16, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  7. Jim S

    Everyone knows how vindictive Sarah is Sarah has shown herself to be petty and capable of holding a grudge for years
    Her biggest concern second only to money is with her ego
    Sarah is not concerned about America or the baggers she leads around by the nose her responce to the oil crisis would be spill baby spill

    June 16, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. johnrj08

    Any state that was stupid enough to elect Sarah Palin as governor will definitely be stupid enough to let Tea Party outsiders influence their votes in this race.

    June 16, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. Marry

    Not worth a comment, CNN!

    June 16, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  10. Ron

    The Republicans deserve this. And as the Tea Party takes over more and more of the Republican Party, the more marginalized they will become.

    June 16, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. JPX

    It's funny, when I hear the words "Tea Party" now I immediately think, "Crazy People".

    June 16, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. William Jefferson

    Is this joe also a plumber? They should vote against murkowski. She is a RINO!

    June 16, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. Barb

    Isn't funny how the word money always creeps into the picture. The Tea Party movement (joke party) will bring in lots of resourses such as money to buy their leaders. What a freakin joke. Anyone who wants to work toward leading this country should do so on their own merit. Not with some drumned up crap that a bunch of idiots buy into office. That's the whole problem now. Everything in the government is being bought. You can't trust anyone to really work for the people. I'm beginning to think the Republicans and the Tea Party idiots are one in the same. Palin, well, she just fits right into their plan. Read between the lines people. They've got a big plan that they are trying to put into place. Palin and her idiot buddies at work again.

    June 16, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. Shawn G

    Nice, I love hearing about booting rinos out. We need principled constitutionalists in our government. That is our only hope!

    June 16, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. Joe in PA

    Hmnn....the repulican party is not crazy enough already?

    June 16, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. Steve

    "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.""

    Shouldnt that be goosestep, not lockstep?

    Just checking

    June 16, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  17. ignited somewhat of a political mystery

    why do you give the tea party press?

    bunch of quacks

    and this canidate: sleeze ball

    June 16, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Chris_VA

    We can only hope that the Tea Party successfully replaces all reasonable GOP candidates with fringe extremists. I think the Democrats couldn't hope for a better outcome. I don't think Americans really want to be run by a bunch of McCarthys and Goldwaters, just the 25% who are shallow-thinking and ill-informed do...

    June 16, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  19. GI Joe

    If he can oust Murkowski (another "follow in daddy's shadow" republicant), then he has more of my favor than she does.

    June 16, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  20. gate

    Murkowski is an extremist and they want someone even more extreme? She just tried to gut the Clean Air Act. Yes lets go back to the days that looked like nights because of unregulated air pollution. Cancer is fun! Maybe Miller can abolish the government so we can live free like the Somali's. Give me a break.

    June 16, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  21. American Patriot - a "real" tea partier

    The Tea Party will pour in resources, people and money to "endorse" a candidate.

    Jim Jones used to do the same thing.

    June 16, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. Stephen in Bedford, TX

    There is a spring in my step everytime the Tea Party makes the news. They are rapidly becoming a valuable asset to the Democratic Party. You go guys. Would like a little more rope?

    June 16, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. john

    No, my eyebrows are not raised

    June 16, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Steven in Charleston

    So now Ms. Palin is using the Tea Party Movement to settle personal scores. This lady just gets classier and classier........

    June 16, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. Peter Q. Wolfe

    CNN probably won't let me post on here but what the heck right? Well, our country of the U.S.A is horribly uneducated on political matters and uses evewrything like MTV. We are becoming more and more polarized as years go on and have less and less to show for development. We can't respect descending opinion and love to shout and taunt opposition. We are declining cause of internal conflict not external conflict. The apathy of middle to upper class people in this dumb nation is what is causing class warfare at it's best. G.O.P or no G.O.P or democrat or anybody we are rightfully going to the heap.

    June 16, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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