Alaska Dem: Joe Miller 'hand-selected' by Sarah Palin

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) was a major focus of the first general-election debate in Alaska's Senate race Thursday, with Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) going after Tea Party-backed Joe Miller (R) as Palin's anointed candidate.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, McAdams said Miller was "groomed" by Palin for the slot and labeled him a danger to Alaska's economy given his stance against earmarks.

Miller disputed the notion that he was a Palin pawn, noting, "I'm my own guy."

The two met for their first debate even as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was still deciding whether to launch an independent write-in bid this fall. It's an announcement she is expected to make Friday.

But if she does decide to run, McAdams said he wouldn't mind a Murkowski victory, assuming he doesn't take the seat himself.

More from the Anchorage Daily News on Thursday's debate:

McAdams said the state deserves its fair share and that saying no to earmarks is a threat to Alaska.

Miller said he would never say no to federal funding for Alaska, a still-young state that has been heavily reliant on federal aid for building up its infrastructure and other needs. While he said he had a great deal of respect for the late former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who brought home billions in money and projects during his decades in the Senate, Miller also declared the era of earmarks "dead" and said a new approach is needed now, with the federal government deep in debt and belt-tightening necessary. He said Alaskans must be prepared for that new day.

Miller said the responsibility for a senator rests not with securing earmarks — something members of the delegation, including U.S. Rep. Don Young, have unabashedly done for years — but with ensuring the state gets its fair share at the appropriations table. He also sees the need for easing federal regulations that he believes have limited Alaska's ability to develop its energy and resource base.