The Daily News asked candidates for statewide office in the Aug. 16 Alaska primary and special U.S. House elections to answer a series of issue and biographical questions to help voters understand their positions. Some questions were suggested by readers. Read all the responses here.
Lisa Murkowski • Party: Republican • Occupation: U.S. senator • Age: 65 • Residence: Girdwood • lisamurkowski.com
Relevant experience or prior offices held
Alaska House of Representatives, 1999-2002
Why are you running for office?
I care deeply about Alaska, the land and its people. This is my home, where I was born and raised, and where my husband and I have chosen to raise our sons. I want to continue serving the state I love and to build an even better, more prosperous future for all who call Alaska home. I’m proud of my record of accomplishment for Alaskans, and my seniority in Congress is increasingly key to our ability to enact policies that benefit our state. Looking ahead, I want to boost responsible resource development to create jobs, to build roads and infrastructure that connect Alaskans and improve our quality of life, to sustain our world-class fisheries, to enhance our food security, to help ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve, to honor our elders, to protect our children, and to safeguard our communities.
Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.
We face many challenges as a state – access to our lands and waters, limited infrastructure, food insecurity, public safety, workforce, housing, climate, and high cost of living. But for every challenge, we have opportunity because we have resilient people and resources. I have spent my legislative career educating others about the uniqueness of Alaska and working to build partnerships to deliver results for our state. I’m now better positioned than ever to help ensure Alaska has a seat at the table when decisions are made. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Education Committee, the vice chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and the most senior Republican on the Energy Committee, I am able to work with both the executive and legislative branches across party lines to maximize Alaska’s interests.
Do you believe Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election? If you believe there was fraud, where and how do you think it took place?
Supporters of former President Donald Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. Do you believe President Trump should be held responsible for the events of Jan. 6?
How will you promote putting aside partisan politics to address complex issues in Congress?
You cannot achieve common-sense solutions unless partisan politics is set aside. This is how I work to legislate and is the principle that has guided the bills I have drafted and ushered into law—including, most recently, the Energy Act of 2020; the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package; a waiver of the Passenger Vessel Services Act to allow cruise ships to resume travel in 2021 after a near shutdown of the tourism sector; and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year. I have worked to forge relationships built on respect with members on both sides of the aisle, which allows us to negotiate in good faith and create good policy that will endure for years to come.
What should the federal government be doing to curb inflation and strengthen the U.S. economy?
We should not increase taxes and raise spending, as some in Congress are proposing. We need to focus on supply chains and increasing the domestic supply of a wide range of resources—from energy to minerals, which form the basis for almost every product in modern society. Alaska is uniquely positioned to help, but we need government to partner with us, not push us out of the way. We can produce more oil to ease pain at the pump. We can build a gasline, to add more than 3 BCF of natural gas to world markets each day. We can produce graphite, cobalt, and additional minerals to restrain commodity prices and avoid shortfalls. We can do all this without compromising environmental standards and continuing to reduce emissions. We need to be careful to only increase federal spending where truly needed, such as investment in legacy infrastructure. We also need to review the Federal Reserve’s policies to understand their impacts and ensure they do not contribute further to the problem.
Would you support ending the filibuster to make it easier to pass legislation? Would you support any carve outs to the filibuster for key issues such as abortion access?
No. Ending the legislative filibuster would only deepen the partisan divide. The answer is not to eliminate the procedural safeguards that protect the minority but to work together to find unity and common ground between the parties so that both sides benefit. In my experience, filibusters are deeply frustrating, but can help to improve legislation by forcing members to work together, resulting in policies that endure.
Public trust in the Supreme Court is declining. What do you think should be done to improve trust in the court?
I believe this responsibility falls to the Supreme Court, and not to Congress. Those who serve in Congress must be wary of, and reject, proposals that would further politicize the Court and add to the decline in the public’s trust in it.
Do you think Congress should pass legislation to limit or protect abortion access?
I recognize abortion is an issue where many hold deep and conflicting views. I support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions within reasonable limitations, in line with what a strong majority of Alaskans believe. Following the Dobbs decision, I believe Congress needs to act to restore a woman’s freedom to make her own reproductive health care decisions without undue government interference and have worked with a bipartisan group of senators to introduce such legislation. Our bill protects a woman’s right to choose, as established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and ensures access to contraception, as established by Griswold v. Connecticut while also protecting religious freedoms and provider conscience protections. I oppose late-term abortions and taxpayer-funded abortions. I also believe that providers who do not wish to be involved in abortion should not be forced to perform them.
What specific actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to curb gun violence?
I recently voted for the Safer Communities Act, which provides historic investments for mental health and school safety. As a gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I worked to ensure this new law would help address mass shootings while fully protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. The law allows us to better target illegal gun traffickers and enhances the review process for firearm purchases made by those under 21. We do not create national red flag laws, but we do allow states like Alaska to access funds to support programs like mental health and drug courts. This law provides an unprecedented sum--$3 billion—for mental health care and school safety resources to facilitate telehealth programs; crisis and trauma intervention; suicide prevention; and to access funds for school resources officers.
How do you think new resource development projects in Alaska should be balanced with the interests of environmental protection and climate change mitigation?
As long as the world needs oil, gas, coal, timber, and other resources, Alaska should be able to responsibly produce them. We were promised that right at statehood; it remains key to our economic future; and we have a proven record and labor, safety, and environmental standards higher than anywhere else in the world. Climate change is real, and we must work every day to reduce emissions. Alaska should lead the country in all forms of energy including renewables and microgrids. Innovation and efficiency are critical, which is why I led the first modernization of our nation’s energy policies in over a decade, the Energy Act, into law in 2020. That measure, along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will help us develop emerging technologies like energy storage; advanced nuclear; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; carbon removal; renewable energy; critical minerals and materials; and grid modernization.
Do you believe the federal government is well positioned to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics that may emerge?
We have a lot to do to improve our response capacity and capture the lessons we continue to learn from COVID-19. Overall, however, we are in a better position now than prior to the pandemic. We created Operation Warp Speed, which led to the development of safe and effective treatments and vaccines at an unprecedented rate. We’ve also made huge progress expanding access to telehealth. Many of my colleagues who represent more urban states now finally understand how essential telehealth access is, including access to broadband. I worked to advance the PREVENT Pandemics Act, a bipartisan package to improve our national preparedness. I championed provisions in that bill to reflect lessons from Alaska, including requiring the federal government to regularly consult with noncontiguous states, improving the government’s communication with affected businesses, and establishing new programs to bolster our rural health and infectious disease workforce.
The federal infrastructure bill, which was voted for by all members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, stands to bring millions in federal funding to projects in Alaska. How would you ensure Alaska maximizes the benefits of this bill?
I authored and negotiated passage of the bill. I ensured Alaska was taken into account in provisions related to broadband, ports, harbors, roads, rails, bridges, and water. I ensured federal highway funds can support operations and repair for our Alaska Marine Highway System. We appropriated unprecedented funding to deliver water and sewer services to unserved communities. I ensured access to broadband will be more affordable and accessible statewide. The Coast Guard in Alaska benefits considerably from shoreside infrastructure upgrades. I have been holding informational meetings throughout the state so municipal and tribal governments learn of funding opportunities. In April, I brought agency officials to a grant symposium in Anchorage to share information with Alaskans and will hold another one. We must build the workforce so all Alaskans benefit from the jobs that will be created. In just eight months, the infrastructure law has brought over $2 billion of investment into the state.
Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in sports according to the gender with which they identify?
There should be no discrimination toward anyone at any time. That being said, I understand the complexity and sensitive nature of this issue, and that we don’t want to create fundamental inequalities in women’s sports.
What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?
The Biden administration has a failed policy on immigration with mixed messaging and questionable decisions which have contributed to the unprecedented numbers of immigrants pouring across America’s southern border. Those who wish to come to our country legally and follow our laws are welcome, but our laws must be respected and border security be made a top priority. I also recognize that when there are not enough Americans to fill open jobs, we need a functional immigration system that can help ensure our economy and industries do not suffer from worker shortages. I believe that migrants must be treated humanely, and that we must help address the root causes of their migration. For those who were brought to the United States as children, I support a path toward citizenship through military service or pursuit of higher education.
What is the country’s biggest national security threat?
Terrorism remains a leading threat, but I am also concerned by the rise of autocrats in countries such as Russia, China, and Iran, who do not support American values and do not believe in democracy. As we are seeing in Ukraine, these autocrats can and will ignite wars and other forms of conflict that have deeply harmful local, regional, and global impacts.
Where do you want Alaska and the U.S. to be five years from now in regard to emissions reductions and adaptation to the effects of climate change?
I expect that we will continue to lead the world in responsible emission reductions, and will have grown substantially as a world leader on innovative technologies that ensure we have affordable, reliable, clean and domestic energy, built from domestic components, that are better for the environment. There are many promising technologies that can help us reach that goal, from energy storage and hydrogen to carbon capture and carbon removal, and advanced renewables. I’m proud to have led the most significant legislation to invest in them in the last 15 years, and that will help Alaska remain a test bed, proving ground, and deployment leader in the years ahead. I’m also hopeful that we will have taken more steps to facilitate adaptation. We need to do more in this area, starting with the development of a realistic federal strategy that will work for Alaska. Alaskans must be included whenever climate policies are being formulated, and adaptation is no exception.
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
I believe there is a lot at stake for Alaska in this election. In this time of worsening partisan and geopolitical conflict, many leaders don’t seem willing to recognize or address the forces that are trying to tear us apart. They buy into it, and add to it, further polarizing us. We need to elect individuals who are committed to solving problems by working across party lines to bring people together, to bring about unity rather than create division, and to actually solve problems rather than send messages. My commitment is to do just that, working for all Alaskans. And I believe that, along with my seniority and track record of real results for Alaska, make me the best candidate in this race. I would be honored to earn your vote so that I can continue to serve you and the state we love.