FAIRBANKS, Alaska—Courting the Alaska Native vote is an election-year tradition. This year at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, AFN gave Sen. Lisa Murkowki an unanimous endorsement.
Politics permeated the main stage Thursday, as well as what went on behind the scenes. Candidates work the crowds, and campaign workers hand out freebies like buttons, bracelets and berry buckets -- even free lunches, including one featuring U.S. Senate candidate Scott McAdams.
“I got a Berkowitz bucket and I've got Lisa's buttons in the bucket. so I'm picking up buttons as I go because I collect the buttons,” said Frances Degnan.
Even at the crafts fair, there was no escape from politicking. Ursula Paniyak and her family are selling pro-Murkowski dolls -- including one with a baleen pen to write in her name on the ballot.
“This one says, ‘Vote for Lisa,’” Paniyak said.
Murkowski was presented one of the dolls just before her endorsement. Her campaign co-chair, Democrat Byron Mallott, did not mention Joe Miller by name, but had harsh words for the Republican contender in the race.
“When that person calls our corporations a special interest, I will have nothing to do with him,” Mallott said.
The motion to endorse Murkowski came from a leader of the state’s largest tribal group, Association of Village Council Presidents Co-Chair Myron Naneng.
“The title of the resolution is, ‘A Resolution Endorsing Lisa Murkowski as a Candidate for the United States Senator,’” Maneng said.
“All those in favor of the motion say aye,” AFN Co-Chair Tim Towarak asked the delegates, receiving a chorus of ayes. “Any opposed, same sign. Motion passes unanimously.”
Murkowski was visibly moved by the show of support.
“You honor me; you humble me,” Murkowski said. “I will fight for you as long as I am able.”
The theme of this year is village survival, and delegates were loud and clear Thursday that they believe Murkowski is key to that goal.
The Miller and McAdams campaigns issued statements responding to AFN’s endorsement of Murkowski Thursday.
“It comes as no surprise that AFN has endorsed Lisa Murkowski. The group is made-up of Native corporations, several of which are illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up Murkowski's campaign. She is a bought and paid for candidate,” Miller’s statement said.
“Lisa Murkowski's endorsement doesn't change anything for Scott McAdams. He will continue working hard to win votes, one at a time,” McAdams said.
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