Alaska Senate Contenders Duke It Out in Campaign Ads

As a sign of how close the race continues to be, the candidates are saturating Alaska’s airwaves with campaign ads touting themselves as proponents of the state’s economy, health, veterans, teachers and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But they also are taking shots at each other in these areas. In September, the National Republican Senatorial Committee borrowed a page from this year’s presidential campaign, airing ads accusing Knowles of flip-flopping on the Arctic Refuge, school accountability and third-party advertising, the National Journal reported.

Two 30-second television ads say Knowles favors drilling in ANWR, but “when he tried to get President Clinton to agree, Clinton said no way. [Democratic presidential candidate Massachusetts Sen.] John Kerry’s the same way.” The ad lists other Democrats who oppose the drilling. “Between John Kerry and Tony Knowles, there’s more flip-flopping than a sockeye in Bristol Bay,” a man in the ad says.

Once Roll Call reported that the man was a paid actor, Knowles’ campaign fired off a press release in which a spokesman, Matt McKenna, said that by using an actor in the ad, Murkowski and groups supporting her “are insulting the intelligence of every Alaskan. People up here won’t be fooled by some high-priced Hollywood actor telling them how to think.”

Knowles in June issued an ad criticizing Murkowski for another ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that accused Knowles of consorting with “Eastern liberal” politicians.

In Knowles’ retort ad, former Republican state Rep. Margaret Branson said she was “offended by these outside groups coming in to tell us how to vote.”

Meanwhile, a radio spot from Murkowski scolds Knowles for endorsing a report from the Pew Oceans Commission that suggests some regulations on the fishing industry for conservation purposes. “Tony’s report was funded by some of the same people who oppose drilling on the North Slope, want to lock up the Tongass — and would hurt our fishing industry,” the ad says.

Knowles, who said he was serving as a voice for Alaska interests on the Pew Oceans Commission, recently received support from a group of seven Alaska fishermen, who praised his participation on the commission in a Sept. 17 teleconference, according to the Associated Press.

“This is not just about Alaska. It’s about the entire continental shelf,” said Bristol Bay fisherman Robert Atkinson. “We need more protections in place in order to keep our resources available for our grandchildren.”

Other ads from Knowles tout the North Slope gas line that “will put America and Alaska at work, and those are jobs you can’t outsource.”

Murkowski also promises to create new jobs in the state in a campaign ad, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appears in another describing her commitment to veterans, the National Journal reported.

In 2002, Murkowski was named by her father, former Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, to fill the remainder of his term when he returned to the state to become governor. Lisa Murkowski’s challenger in a bruising Republican primary, former state Sen. Mike Miller, recently threw her his support in an effort to keep the Senate in Republican control, he said.

Knowles served as governor of Alaska from 1994-2002. He easily won his party’s primary to run for the Senate seat.