JUNEAU, Alaska — Sen. Jim DeMint vowed Thursday to stop Lisa Murkowski’s write-in candidacy “dead in its tracks” as he expressed outrage at the GOP’s refusal to strip the senator of her leadership role on the energy committee.
The South Carolina Republican supports Joe Miller, a conservative political upstart who upset Murkowski in last month’s GOP primary.
DeMint said he believed Wednesday’s meeting of GOP senators was to choose a replacement for Murkowski, the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But “one senator after another stood up to argue in favor of protecting her place on the committee,” he said — resulting in an outcome he said she’ll undoubtedly use in her campaign against Miller.
The committee’s work is of special importance to Alaska, which relies heavily on oil and other resources to run. And Murkowski has touted her seniority as a reason for sending her back to Washington.
“It was bad enough to watch my colleagues work to support her in the primary after she had built a record of betraying conservative principles,” he wrote. “But watching them back her after she left the party and launched a campaign against the Republican nominee was more than I could bear.”
Murkowski is running as a write-in Republican and never left the GOP.
Murkowski last week announced her plans to run as a write-in candidate for the Nov. 2 general election, saying she’d been encouraged to do so by Alaskans wanting a choice between the “extremist” views of Miller and the inexperience of the Democratic candidate, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams.
Miller argues the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy, the era of earmarks is dead, and that Alaska must be given greater control of its resources to help wean it from what he considers its overreliance on the federal government.
The FreedomWorks PAC, chaired by former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is among the latest conservative endorsements racked up by Miller. He previously garnered the support of the likes of Sarah Palin and the California-based Tea Party Express.
DeMint is trying to raise $150,000 for Miller through his Senate Conservatives Fund PAC. DeMint told potential donors the money will allow for ads to be run in the state that stop Murkowski’s campaign “dead in its tracks.”
In a statement Thursday, Murkowski said she appreciated the support of her colleagues in affirming her committee position and said it was disappointing that DeMint had attempted to strip Alaska of it. She said an Alaskan has served on the committee since its inception.
Murkowski has said she expects outside interests to attack her record. But she’s said the state needs someone in Washington who can represent all Alaskans — not just conservatives.
And she’s insisted she won’t repeat mistakes from the primary, such as not swiftly responding to attacks or claims about her. “The gloves are off,” she said last week.
DeMint, in his appeal, said the “Washington establishment is doing everything it can to help Lisa Murkowski hold on to power.”
After her concession, many within the establishment — the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the state GOP — lined up behind Miller, as did several of her colleagues. She told The Associated Press earlier this week that she felt Republican leaders have turned their backs on her as she mounts her new campaign. But she said she understood it, because many people are “counting numbers.”
“And if it’s a Republican body, that’s the body we want,” she said. “Here in Alaska, what I hear so often is, ’I vote for the individual. I look at the person, I don’t really get myself tied into the party label.' ”