Brennan: Murkowski votes her conscience
By Tom Brennan |
The notion that Sen. Lisa Murkowski may have doomed her re-election chances when she runs four years from now is downright silly.
Murkowski actually handled the Brett Kavanaugh issue pretty skillfully. She gave support to the Alaska Native community worried about his stands on Native American rights and women concerned about Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misadventures as a youth and his positions on abortion issues.
She also caught a break when Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, found he needed to skip the voting session to attend his daughter’s wedding. Daines would have voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and Murkowski wanted to vote against. Instead she simply voted “present” and the tradeoff kept the final vote 50 to 48 in favor of Kavanaugh. That softened the blow for the Alaskan. Voting “no” would have seemed harsher.
Brett Kavanaugh has had a very distinguished legal career and is highly respected by the leadership of the American Bar Association. His nomination to the Supreme Court was jeopardized when California professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of a drunken sexual assault when they were both in high school.
Kavanaugh’s denial was certainly called for but the way he did it raised legitimate questions about his judicial temperament. He has never behaved that way in a courtroom, but his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee made many people wonder whether that side of him might return again. Odds are it won’t, but still, people wonder.
Murkowski voted her conscience rather than follow party dictates. She has done that before so it was no surprise. It’s one of the traits that many Alaskans greatly admire. The conflict was unusual since there is usually little or no difference between Murkowski’s conscience and positions taken by Republican leadership. But this was an exception.
President Donald Trump said in a Washington Post interview that voters “will never forgive” her vote on Kavanaugh. Since Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted in favor of the nomination after seeming to waver interminably, Murkowski was the only Republican who didn’t support Kavanaugh.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered that Murkowski is “about as strong as you can possibly be in Alaska. Nobody’s going to beat her.” That may be a bit of overstatement, but if Lisa doesn’t make some unlikely mistake in the coming years she is highly likely to be re-elected in 2022.
Among the more laughable comments was former Gov. Sarah Palin’s jibe that she “can see 2022 from my house.” After her premature abandonment of the governorship in 2009, Palin’s political star in Alaska has waned to the point of invisibility. She seemed to quit the job because she was bored after losing the national limelight that enveloped her in the 2008 campaign for the vice presidency.
Palin is a very entertaining person and probably Alaska’s best known personality, but her current lack of political credibility in the 49th state seems to rule out being elected to a major office.
One thing worth noting in this year’s election is the bipartisan support Congressman Don Young is getting for his attempt to retain the congressional seat he has held since 1973. Alaska has only one seat in the House but Young has managed, through seniority and skill, to become one of the nation’s most powerful legislators. He has continually used that standing to advance issues important to Alaska and its people.
Young’s opponent, Independent Alyse Galvin, has relatively little political experience and wants to start at the top. She is only four points behind Young in the polls and could pull it off, but the odds look long. Don Young always seems to fight off his challengers — and they often do well in the polls, but somehow Young manages to hang on. He has done a good job for Alaska and deserves to be retained.
One of Don Young’s current television ads features endorsements by a number of prominent Democrats led by former Gov. Bill Sheffield. The ad very effectively makes the point that Young has bipartisan support, has done a good job for Alaska and deserves to be retained.