Lisa Murkowski won't endorse a candidate in Alaska governor race

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she will not endorse a candidate in the governor's race, saying she is focused on her job in Washington, D.C.

"I have been spending all my time thinking about the Senate and I'll continue to do that," she said during a meeting with staff at Alaska Dispatch News on Monday.

The gubernatorial contest pits Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and running mate Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan against attorney Bill Walker, a longtime Republican who recently dropped his affiliation with the party to run an independent campaign with Alaska Native leader and Democrat Byron Mallott.

In 2010, Mallott was co-chair of Murkowski's successful write-in campaign after she lost to Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller in the Republican primary election. Asked if she felt she owed anything to Mallott, Murkowski acknowledged that Mallot took a risk on her campaign four years ago, but owing things to people is not what it's about.

"It's about what's best for the state of Alaska, who is best to govern our state, and I believe that very, very strongly," she said. "I will add that I care for Byron Mallott as a friend. He has been a friend to me and I like the man."

Murkowski has weighed in on other Alaska contests recently. She urged a No vote on Ballot Measure 1, the citizen referendum that failed to repeal the state's oil-production tax cut during the primary vote Aug. 19. And she is supporting former state attorney general Dan Sullivan -- no relation to the other Dan Sullivan -- in the race against her Democratic colleague, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.

Murkowski said she was asked to weigh in on those contests, but not in the governor's race. Asked if she would end up endorsing before the Nov. 4 general election, she said, "At this point in time, we've got what, 38 days or something like that? My eyes are on the Senate and that's where I'm going to stay."

Asked if Parnell has done a good job, she said his effort to advance a natural gas line has been "hugely important" for the state. The project is not moving fast enough for any Alaskan, she said, but Parnell has worked diligently to get all the stakeholders and players together.

Alaskans have sought the project for decades to tap the vast reserves of natural gas on the North Slope and help diversify the state's oil-based economy.

Asked what's good about the Walker-Mallott ticket, Murkowski said they are both "good, strong Alaskans."

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex@alaskadispatch.com.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.