ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A survey that U.S. Senate Republican nominee Joe Miller filled out six years ago while running for the state Legislature has surfaced, leading Miller's opponents to claim it contradicts his campaign message on education.
Ever since Miller defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, his record has been under a microscope -- something his opponents say is long overdue.
"She doesn't see government as a problem; she sees government as the answer," Miller says in a TV ad, accusing Murkowski of shedding her views during the campaign season like antlers.
But now the tables are turned, as Miller’s opponents say he’s the one whose positions change. They say the evidence is in a survey Miller filled out during his 2004 state House run against Rep. David Guttenberg for the District 8 seat in Fairbanks, which encompasses the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
Guttenberg says Miller was like a chameleon during that campaign.
"First and foremost, he is politically ambitious -- that is the motivator," Guttenberg said. "He would tell the group he was talking to what he wanted to hear."
In the survey, Miller said education was his top priority, followed by public health, public safety and resource development.
Among other questions, the Student Governance Council survey asked: Would Miller support a fully funded University of Alaska budget with a 5 percent increase per year? Would he approve of using the state's general funds to pay for the shortfall in public employee retirement funds, and using state money for needs-based scholarships?
Miller checked yes to every question -- and all of them involved spending more state money.
"I am a little bit puzzled," said Heather Handyside, a spokesperson for Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. "Joe Miller's views at this time are pretty extreme at the far end of the right spectrum. From what he's showing in the survey, Joe might be a little more touchy-feely, maybe a little more caring than I ever knew."
The McAdams campaign says the survey doesn't match up with Miller's call to do away with the federal Department of Education, while Murkowski's campaign says the survey contradicts Miller's current campaign message.
"So, has he completely done a 180 between 2004 and where he is as a candidate now? I don't know -- I think these are questions that Alaskans need to ask," Murkowski said.
Miller says his views have been distorted by the media, and the survey is consistent with his positions on education today.
"This is an issue of state control versus federal control," Miller said. "If the state government wants to do something for its elected leaders, it's the state's choice to do it; you don't want the federal mandates coming down saying you must."
Miller says he supports the University of Alaska system today as much as he did back then.
"Look, I've got eight kids in the mix, I've got a number of them who attended the University of Alaska," Miller said. "I've got a degree in economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and two sisters that have attended. I was an adjunct professor at the university."
Murkowski says Miller can't have it both ways, because it also takes federal money to run a university, and she says almost all of the university's research programs are funded by the federal government.
Miller says he's not alone in his call to abolish the Department of Education on constitutional grounds, and says President Ronald Reagan also once held that view.
Contact Rhonda McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org