JUNEAU — Joe Miller wants to again attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but this time he’s planning to try it as a Libertarian.
Miller announced Tuesday that he will become the Libertarian’s replacement candidate in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race in another face-off with the incumbent Republican.
Six years ago, Miller upset Murkowski in the GOP primary only to see her retain her seat in a general election write-in campaign marked by a lengthy hand-count of ballots.
In a statement, Murkowski said she has been preparing for her re-election bid for several years and looks forward to “a spirited campaign on the issues that matter to Alaskans most.”
Alaska Libertarian Party Chairman Terrence Shanigan confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that Miller is the party’s choice to replace Cean Stevens on the ballot after she withdrew from the race. He said Miller has registered as a Libertarian and is a good fit for a party that believes in such things as limited government.
The party had unsuccessfully courted Miller to be a candidate in 2010 and 2014, he said. “I think this race is less about party, but it’s so much about ideology and philosophy,” Shanigan said.
Miller is a high-energy candidate with name recognition who is more measured and deliberative than he was in 2010, Shanigan said.
In 2014, Miller finished behind Dan Sullivan in the GOP Senate primary. Sullivan went on to beat Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in the general election.
Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke said by email Tuesday that election officials were processing the paperwork submitted to put Miller on the ballot. If certified, Miller would become the Libertarian candidate instead of Stevens.
Miller issued a release saying that low voter turnout in last month’s primary shows that Alaskans want another choice. If elected, the release states, Miller said he will caucus with Republicans.
Murkowski faced no real challenge in her primary last month. In addition to Murkowski, the general election also includes Margaret Stock, who is running as an independent, and Democrat Ray Metcalfe, who has butted heads with his party’s leadership.
State Republican party chairman Tuckerman Babcock said in a release that the Alaska GOP will be “completely dedicated” to Murkowski’s re-election following her primary win.
Pollster Marc Hellenthal said Murkowski is a popular political figure in Alaska. The place typically where she might have trouble is the Republican primary, but in a general election, she’s a “shoo-in,” he said.
Murkowski is seen as a moderate.
Political strategist Jim Lottsfeldt, who was involved with a third-party group that supported Begich in 2014, said that if there’s any anti-Murkowski sentiment, it could be split among Metcalfe, Stock and Miller, and Miller would need to consolidate it all to win.
He said the introduction of Miller into the race may not be as exciting a prospect as some might think it is.
“This would be a good year if he was her only opponent,” Lottsfeldt said. “But he’s not.”