By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press Writer
JUNEAU — A conservative group has withdrawn its endorsement of Republican lieutenant governor hopeful Mead Treadwell over his past support for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
The endorsement disappeared Wednesday afternoon from the website of the Conservative Patriots Group. Treadwell said he learned of it by news release.
Frank Bettine, a director of the organization, said the grassroots group has no plans to now endorse any candidate for governor or lieutenant governor leading to the August primary.
The tea party-style group, rooted in Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, has sought to become a player in Alaska politics, pledging to promote conservative values — such as limited government, individual freedoms and free markets — and candidates who share those values.
But its endorsement of Treadwell, in a race that generally draws little attention, prompted an outcry from fellow candidate and former radio talk show host, Eddie Burke, over dibs for the conservative crown.
The group gave both men an equal rating but backed Treadwell, a GOP stalwart and expert on Arctic issues, saying it went with the conservative candidate it felt had the best shot at winning the general election. A third Republican, state Rep. Jay Ramras, ranked far lower due his public endorsement of Murkowski, an act the group said verified Ramras was a Republican in name only.
Burke argued that past campaign contributions by Treadwell to Murkowski called Treadwell’s conservative credentials into question. Conservative Patriots have endorsed Murkowski primary challenger Joe Miller, who also has gotten support from Palin and the national Tea Party Express.
The group, in a release, said Treadwell “withheld” the contribution information. It said that in the vetting process, Treadwell indicated he planned to stay neutral in the race.
Treadwell told the Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he still does. Murkowski’s a longtime friend, he said, and Miller was once his attorney. “My support for any other candidates is really irrelevant.”
He said his contribution to Murkowski predated Miller’s entering the race and was intended to help her build a warchest to defeat any Democrat this November. He also said it was made before he began his own run for office.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m a go-to guy to get things done in Alaska, and Sen. Murkowski has been a very hardworking individual,” he said. “And I’m certainly not going to put a lifetime friendship and longtime working relationship at risk for political expediency.”
He believes the decision to rescind the endorsement will be a setback for the group, which Bettine says has about 400 dues-paying members, and make it appear as a front group for Miller.
Burke said the action was appropriate. Treadwell’s past financial support for Murkowski was in “direct opposition to CPG’s goals and what they stand for,” he said.
“The only thing I ever wanted (was) the truth,” he said. “I am now the only conservative in this race.”
Here's a statement issued by Treadwell on Wednesday afternoon:
MEAD TREADWELL RESPONDS TO CONSERVATIVE PATRIOTS GROUP
Today I learned the Conservative Patriots Group has rescinded its endorsement of my candidacy, based not on any question posed to me during their vetting process of my public service record and political philosophy, but on the fact they had discovered from public records that I'd given campaign contributions to Sen. Lisa Murkowski this spring before I had become a candidate and before Joe Miller had become a challenger.
Contrary to the statement of the CPG, I had not withheld that information on contributions; I simply had not been asked. My campaign contributions are public record.
I was asked if, as a candidate, I was endorsing people in other races. I replied no. I have supporters who are supporters of Lisa Murkowski and others who support Joe Miller. I have supporters who support Governor Parnell, Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker. The choice of nominees in other races is up to the voters, not me.
I stand behind my contributions to Senator Murkowski. Helping her build her war chest deterred Democrats from entering the race. She has worked hard for Alaska, and has won leadership positions that can help the state get its economy on a long-term footing. My contributions were disclosed under the law. I had no interest in joining a "slate" of candidates until after the primary. I went into the vetting process believing that CPG was vetting me on my merits, not on my view of the merits of others.
As a conservative, I am sorry that this group -which shares the same hopes for limited constitutional government that I do - has chosen to demonize a hard working Senator, and to condition its choice of candidates in the Lt. Governor's race on support they might provide for other candidates. I'm not aware that they gave Senator Murkowski a chance to be vetted before they endorsed her challenger. While their action is not a setback for me, it is a setback for the CPG because it makes them look like a single-interest front group for Joe Miler's Senate race, rather than the broad " tea party" coalition I admire which is trying to bring back limited government in America. They may claim to speak for conservatives, but as a single interest group, they can't.
I will not put at risk a lifelong friendship with Senator Murkowski for political expediency. She has done tremendous work for Alaska. Joe Miller is known to me. I have donated to Joe's candidacy in the past, just as I have for Lisa Murkowski. I have assured his supporters that if he wins and I win, I can -based on past experience - work with him. Voters should know that one thing distinguishing me from every other candidate in the race for Lt. Governor is that I work well with people - I don't burn bridges. I recognize that all of us are trying to do the best for Alaska.
I will continue to present myself to voters as the clear, qualified, accomplished and conservative choice for Lt. Governor of Alaska. I wish the other candidates and the Conservative Patriots Group well, and will not burn a bridge there either.