By SAM FRIEDMAN
U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller came to Kodiak Wednesday and spoke to voters about topics from the national debt to the war in Afghanistan.
The Republican nominee was in town for a four-hour visit that included a meeting with seniors and tea party leaders, interviews with local radio stations and a town hall meeting.
About 70 people came to the town hall meeting at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center, many of them supporters wearing Miller pins.
Miller began the event with a summary of the central tenet of his campaign — what he sees as the need to shrink the size of the federal government.
“It all has to do with shrinking and in fact reversing the role of the federal government,” he said. “And it’s the only option we can take. If we take any other we’re going to end up bankrupt like our federal government is.”
He told the audience that America’s national debt has gotten so large that every citizen’s share is $400,000.
In his campaign Miller has argued federal cutbacks are necessary because of the ballooning national debt and the encroachment of the federal government toward rights the U.S. Constitution reserves to citizens and the states.
He advocates repealing last spring’s national healthcare legislation, reducing regulations for businesses and cutting nonessential government services.
In a campaign that has focused on national and local issues, Kodiak’s town hall provided a look at some of the international issues Miller would face as a senator.
The first few audience questions dealt with America’s wars in the Middle East.
Miller said he does not support nation-building missions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he also said he does not want to undermine the troops already in Afghanistan by setting a timetable for their withdrawal.
“We are certainly not a nation builder,” he said. “We aren’t to be out there building democracies, but where there’s a threat we’ve got to identify it and we’ve got to respond to it.”
He received hearty applause from the audience when he said he would like slash U.S. funding for the United Nations.
The tea party in the Senate
Miller’s bid for the Senate is contested by Democrat Scott McAdams and write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
At Wednesday’s town hall Miller said a new group of tea party Republicans now running for office will be in a position to shrink the government in a way that incumbent Republicans like Murkowski have not.
“Although I’m very much a Republican nominee, (‘Republican’) is not necessarily always a good word,” he said. “If you look at what has happened over the course of the last decades, for example, broke government has continued whether there was a Republican or Democratic administration … it requires a new mindset.”
He further distanced himself from Murkowski by denouncing earmarks, the local infrastructure projects that legislators divvy up when negotiating votes. He said earmarks are a way of the past, and have decreased from 4 percent to less than 1 percent of Alaska’s budget in the last three years.
“The era of earmarks is over, whether we like it or not. It doesn’t matter who you send to the Congress,” he said. “Earmarks are those horse trades that they use — you get your pet project and then you vote for the bill. I think what you’re seeing is the recognition that the rate of federal debt can’t continue.”
Mirror writer Sam Friedman can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org