JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller said he will support the eventual GOP nominee if he doesn't win Tuesday's primary.
For months, Miller, a tea party favorite, said he would not commit to supporting either Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell or former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan should they win, stoking fears that the party would be divided in a race that Republicans see as key to their efforts to win back control of the Senate. In a radio interview earlier in the day Thursday, Miller remained noncommittal.
But near the end of a televised debate Thursday night, the last debate before the primary, Miller said he believed he will win and would do everything he could to see that incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is defeated come November.
"But if one of you two guys, I've never said this before, I'll support you guys. I will," he said. "We've got to get rid of Begich. There's no question about it."
Both Treadwell and Sullivan have said they would support the eventual nominee should they lose, positions they reiterated in the at-times fiery debate.
The candidates pulled no punches in laying out their arguments for why they are the best candidate — and in trying to distinguish themselves from each other.
Treadwell and Sullivan argued over negative campaigning, with Treadwell questioning a Sullivan mailer that he said imposed his head on someone else's body and Sullivan accusing Treadwell of coming at him with attacks mimicking those of Democrats.
Treadwell said the issue of Sullivan's residency is a fair one that will come up in the general election, saying representing Alaska means knowing Alaska. Sullivan's roots in the state date to the 1990s; his wife is from Alaska. Sullivan left the state in 2002 for stints in the White House and serving overseas with the military, returning in 2009, when he was appointed Alaska's attorney general.
Miller, who has sniped at Treadwell for adopting rhetoric similar to his own, questioned Treadwell's conservative credentials. Treadwell said he has worked on conservative causes his whole life.
On a lighter note, the candidates were asked what Alaskans, past or present, inspired them the most. Miller said Sarah Palin, who endorsed him during his unsuccessful 2010 Senate run but has been on the sidelines of this race. Sullivan said the late former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Treadwell said the late former Alaska Gov. Wally Hickel.