Will a Write-In Campaign for Lisa Murkowski Save Washington's "Third Senator"?

Her opponent has shown precious little concern for our fishing and aerospace interests.

Among those hoping that incumbent Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski will make an unlikely comeback as a write-in candidate in the general election against GOP/Tea Party candidate Joe Miller are the many Seattle-area contributors to her campaign. Their ranks include former Senator Slade Gorton and a host of seafood-industry leaders and employees dependent on Alaska fisheries for their livelihoods. Nearly 100 Washingtonians gave Murkowski a total of $103,050 this year, hoping to maintain her supportive voice in D.C.—only to see the incumbent knocked out by the upstart, Sarah Palin–powered Miller. With the defeat (and death) of venerable Sen. Ted Stevens, followed by Murkowski's primary defeat, Washington seems to have lost the advantage of having a "third senator." During Stevens' reign, and to a lesser extent during the Murkowski years, Seattle-area donors contributed mightily to Alaska Republicans in return for their support of laws and measures that favored Seattle-based fishers and processors and the aerospace industry. In 2002, for example, Stevens raked in $220,000 from the Seattle area, with Boeing as one of his leading supporters. (Percentage-wise, he raised more here that election than did hometown Sen. Maria Cantwell). This year, Trident Seafoods chair and fish-stick king Chuck Bundrant gave Murkowski so much he had to take some back. He donated $5,300 in three primary- and general-election contributions, $2,000 over the election-cycle limit; that amount was returned to him. Similarly, Alyeska Seafoods chair Alec Brindle donated $4,000, and $700 had to be returned. Ex-senator Gorton gave $500. None of Murkowski's supporters appear to have crossed over to the Miller camp, at least so far. Miller's biggest backer remains Palin's PAC ($5,000), and he won the primary with a comparatively lean treasury (just under $300,000) compared to Murkowski's 2005-2010 donation total of $3.5 million. She is raising new money, and using what's left of the earlier donations, to fund her write-in run. Miller hasn't said much about aiding Seattle's, or even Alaska's, fishing and aerospace interests, focusing instead on turning back the federal handouts so highly prized by pork-barreler Stevens. As Miller said when Murkowski announced her write-in candidacy, "I believe the federal government has gone too far. I want to rein in federal spending, roll back excessive regulation, and reduce taxes. Some call these views extreme; I call them common sense."

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