Friday, September 17, 2010

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski Formally Announces Write-In Campaign For U.S. Senate, Cites Outpouring Of Support As Decisive

The secret steadily unraveled as the day progressed, after Bonnie Jack, a Murkowski campaign elections observer for the count of absentee votes, sent out an email this morning inviting people to “join us at the Kick-off of Senator Lisa's campaign", and Mary Gore, Murkowski’s cousin, wrote on her Facebook page that “today is cousin will announce at 5:00 today that she will run as a write-in candidate for US Senate". Former Alaska House Speaker Gail Phillips also said that Murkowski was going to go ahead with a write-in campaign. But at 6:10 P.M. on September 17th, 2010, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski finally and formally announced that she is indeed going to continue her campaign to defend her U.S. Senate seat -- as a write-in candidate. She is retaining the Republican label, however.

Anchorage Daily News photo gallery available HERE.

Surrounded by supporters, to include NEA-Alaska, APDEA, and Democratic State Senator Albert Kookesh, who was also representing the Alaska Federation of Natives, Senator Murkowski said the overwhelming outpouring of support from Alaskans led her to make the decision to stay in the race. Murkowski also said "Alaskans deserve a fighter in the United States Senate who will always stand up for Alaska, who understands our great potential, and has the experience, the respect and the seniority to accomplish that...I am that Senator." She also indicated that the gloves are off this time around.

But Murkowski campaign manager John Bitney said she was undecided up until the final day whether she was going to do it. With over $1 million remaining in her campaign account, she has the financial muscle, and Politico reveals she will be holding a conference call on Sept. 18 with a number of top lobbyists and employees at some of the largest oil companies – including Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Marathon Oil to increase that financial muscle.

Many Alaskans asked Murkowski to run as a third-party or write-in candidate. This was reflected in several local unscientific polls. A KTUU Channel 2 poll showed that 52 percent thought she should run, an Anchorage Daily Planet poll showed that 53 percent thought she would run, and a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner poll (on their main page) showed that 40 percent thought she would run, but the latter poll had four options versus two for the first two.

In order for Murkowski votes to count in the November general election, voters will have to both write her name on to the ballot and fill in the bubble next to her name. Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai has said that voters would not necessarily have to spell Murkowski's name exactly correctly

What's likely to happen now? Well, first and foremost, we're likely to see the Senate Republican leadership move to curtail Murkowski's seniority privileges. This includes her privileges as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and her seat on the Appropriations Committee. Furthermore, Murkowski may also have to give up her seat as Senate Republican Conference vice chair; Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on Monday Sept. 13 said he had begun seeking support from colleagues to replace Murkowski. Since this post, Senator Murkowski has now stepped down from her Senate leadership position, thus compromising the advantages of her seniority.

Democrat Scott McAdams is likely to become an instant also-ran. Two polls taken weeks ago, taken by PPP and Dittman respectively, both showed that in a three-way race between Miller, Murkowski, and McAdams, McAdams would finish a DISTANT third. Both polls show McAdams within single digits of Miller in a two-way race. Since that time, McAdams has received more publicity and funding. He's one of the few Alaska Democrats who can do more than walk and chew gum simultaneously -- he has a serviceable track record as Sitka's mayor. But he's been a bit slow to come out with specifics. Furthermore, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign committee has supported McAdams verbally, they have yet to commit any resources or assistance to him. So I still see McAdams finishing third in a three-way race. Pollster Dave Dittman echoes this assessment, saying that Murkowski likely would draw voters from McAdams because they would view Murkowski as a moderate more likely to win against the more conservative Miller.

A number of voters will now question whether Lisa Murkowski's word is good. During a candidate forum in Kenai back on August 20th, when the moderator asked Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski if they would support the eventual winner, both Miller and Murkowski said yes, Murkowski specifically saying that "she respects the electorate and would support whoever wins". A mere "outpouring of support" seems like a weak explanation for her change of heart.


  1. Wow, I never knew that before. Lisa Murkowski is related to Al Gore?? What's the connection?

  2. I must have missed that one. I'm certainly not aware of any family connection.

    Politically...well, that might be a different story, depending on whether or not she supports cap-and-trade.