Palin May Oppose ‘Maverick’ Murkowski, Vindicate Alaska GOP

‘Hey @LisaMurkowski – I can see 2022 from my house…’

PHOTO: US Army-Alaska/Creative Commons

(Jackie Calmes, Los Angeles Times) Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who broke Republican ranks Friday to oppose putting Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, made history before by ignoring the will of her party.

Murkowski was controversially appointed to fill the seat of her father, Frank Murkowski, when he became governor of Alaska in 2002. After winning one full term, she lost the Republican primary bid for re-election in 2010 to tea-party favorite Joe Miller. But with the help of outside money from traditionally liberal union groups, she waged a successful write-in campaign, becoming only the second Senate candidate (after Strom Thurmond in 1954) to do so.

Her vote against Kavanaugh is hardly without risk. Soon after Murkowski announced it, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin sent a tweet suggesting she would challenge the senator for what would be Murkowski’s fourth full term.

If Murkowski’s electoral history helps explain her split with the GOP on the Kavanaugh vote, so do other factors.

She is a moderate who favors abortion; Kavanaugh’s record suggests he could be a vote against it.

Native Alaskans are key supporters and donors for her; Kavanaugh, on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled against native groups. And just last week, as Kavanaugh defended himself against a bombardment of unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations, Murkowski disclosed to Alaska Public Media that she has suffered unspecified sexual abuse.

Murkowski notoriously joined Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins to thwart the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. With Collins, she was one of two Republicans to oppose Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, causing a tie vote that Vice President Mike Pence had to break. A supporter of liberal immigration, she criticized Trump’s short-lived policy of separating families at the border “cruel.”

Yet, Murkowski told reporters her vote against Kavanaugh was the most difficult decision she’d ever made.

“I believe we are dealing with issues right now that are bigger than a nominee and how we can ensure that our institutions, not only the legislative branch but our judicial branch, continue to be respected,” she said.

“I believe he is a good man,” she added. “It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”