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Odds are that at some point in the past 20 years, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has done something that really ticked you off. The curse of being a moderate in a Senate that’s increasingly dominated by partisan ideologues is that no matter where you land on an issue, you have a sizable percentage of your constituents upset with you. Murkowski’s voting record — in favor of abortion rights but also the 2017 tax cuts, against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but in favor of oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 1002 Area — has frustrated GOP stalwarts who dub her a Republican in name only, as well as Democrats and left-leaning independents who want her to buck the party line more often.
But it’s exactly this tendency – to decide each issue individually and not foreclose the possibility of being out of step with party leadership – that has established Murkowski as one of the most powerful swing votes in the Senate, as well as one of the only members who can talk to just about any senator from either party. In this day and age, that’s an incredibly valuable asset.
It’s easy to make an economic case for Murkowski’s continued presence in the Senate; she has been influential in continuing Ted Stevens’ legacy of steering federal appropriations to help build out Alaska’s infrastructure, as well as communicating our state’s unique needs and challenges to colleagues who see those expenditures as pork-barrel waste. But what’s arguably more important is her continuation of Stevens’ other legacy — the mindset of “To hell with politics, let’s do what’s right for Alaska.” That focus has helped secure funding for Alaska’s beleaguered ferries and the ports they dock at, smoothed the path for vital resource development priorities and ensured investment into long-overdue icebreakers that will maintain the U.S. presence in the Arctic.
Murkowski’s independent streak hasn’t made her reelection campaigns any easier. In 2004, she overcame a challenge from former Gov. Tony Knowles while dealing with hard feelings from many Alaskans over her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, picking her to fill his seat in the U.S. Senate. In 2010, Murkowski had her first serious challenge from the right when Joe Miller won the GOP primary, forcing Murkowski to run a historic write-in campaign. In 2016, Murkowski faced Miller again; this time, he ran as the Libertarian Party candidate.
This year, Murkowski is again facing a rebuke from the Alaska GOP and multiple challengers, including the party-backed Kelly Tshibaka. And once again, it’s been a bruising campaign, with cynical jabs that paint Murkowski’s openness to reaching across party lines in the name of solutions as a weakness, a sign that she is somehow in President Joe Biden’s back pocket. But in a state where nonpartisan and undeclared voters far outnumber Republicans or Democrats, that independent, deal-making spirit is more in step with Alaskans than a party-line senator would be. The issues at stake in Washington, D.C. are too important for our vote there to be simply a rubber stamp of the party leadership’s agenda. Real, lasting legislative solutions happen not when one side beats the other into submission, but when someone like Murkowski is able to bring both sides to the table.
Lisa Murkowski has worked hard for Alaska as our state’s senior U.S. senator, and we can be confident she will continue to excel in that role — even if she occasionally casts a vote you don’t personally agree with. She deserves your support in the Nov. 8 election.