Alaska News

State Sen. Dunleavy considering primary challenge to US Sen. Murkowski

Mike Dunleavy, a conservative state senator from Wasilla, says he'll discuss a potential Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski after the conclusion of this year's session of the Alaska Legislature.

In an interview Tuesday, Dunleavy said he's been asked to run for Murkowski's seat by "a number of folks and outfits" that he wouldn't identify. He added that he's concerned that "what's happening at the federal level is going in the wrong direction."

Dunleavy said he would give a "more definitive statement" about his intentions once the legislative session is over. Lawmakers are currently approaching the end of a special session called by Gov. Bill Walker and are expected to call another special session later this week to negotiate an agreement on a budget package for the state's next fiscal year.

Dunleavy is in his second term as a state senator. He was first elected in 2012 after knocking off incumbent Republican Sen. Linda Menard in the primary, then had to run for a new four-year term last year because of redistricting. If he runs against Murkowski in 2016, he won't have to give up his state Senate seat because he'll be in the middle of his term. His potential interest in Murkowski's seat was first reported by the Washington, D.C. insider newspaper Roll Call.

Asked Tuesday how seriously he's considering a primary campaign against Murkowski, Dunleavy responded: "I think everyone gives thoughts to whether they want to run for a different office, whether they feel they could do a different job.

"I'd probably be thinking about it a little more seriously at this point, but once the session gets over I'll be able to give you a better answer," he said.

Dunleavy said Murkowski has "always treated me decently, and I think vice versa."


But he added that if he was in her position, he would probably have more of voice on international affairs -- the Islamic State in the Middle East is a "serious issue," he said. And, he added, he'd be "attacking" what he characterized as an effort by the federal government to "basically strangle the development of the state of Alaska and make us a dependent."

Asked about Dunleavy's potential interest, a consultant for Murkowski's re-election campaign, Scott Kendall, responded: "We're not commenting on anyone hypothetical."

"All we're focused on is lining up all the necessary support and resources we know are necessary to win," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "We're staying the course and lining up our resources and getting ready to speak to Alaskans -- and that's our sole focus."

Murkowski's most recent federal filings show that she raised $680,000 for her re-election campaign in the first three months of 2015 and spent about $90,000, leaving her with $1.5 million in the bank.

A year and a half before Election Day, she's running Internet ads linking to her campaign website and describing how she "fights for Alaska's conservative values."

Murkowski lost her last primary campaign to a conservative challenger, Joe Miller, in 2010. She then ran as a write-in candidate in the general election and won.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at