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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

Alaska

N/A

murkowski.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Appointed Dec. 2002, term expires 2016, 2nd full term.

Born: May 22, 1957, Ketchikan, AK

Home: Anchorage, AK

Education: Willamette U., 1975-77, Georgetown U., B.A. 1980, Willamette U., J.D. 1985

Professional Career: Anchorage Dist. Court Clerk's Office, atty., 1987-89; Practicing atty., 1989-98.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Verne Martell) , 2 children

Lisa Murkowski, the senior senator from Alaska, is a Republican who was appointed to the Senate in 2002 by her father, then-Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, to fill the vacancy caused by his own resignation from the Senate to become governor. She won a full term in her own right in 2004 to become the first woman elected to Congress from Alaska. In her 2010 bid for reelection, she lost the GOP primary to a tea party-backed candidate, only to come back to win the general election as a write-in candidate. She took the gavel of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2015.

The second of six children, Murkowski grew up in Ketchikan in Alaska’s Panhandle and in Fairbanks. In her senior year of high school, she worked for five weeks as an intern in the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens’ Washington office. She attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and graduated from Georgetown in 1980, the year her father was first elected to the Senate. Murkowski went on to get a degree from Willamette law school in 1985. She served as an Anchorage District Court attorney, worked for an Anchorage law firm for eight years, and then established her own law practice. In 1998, she was elected to the state House from a north Anchorage district that included her neighborhood of Government Hill.

Alaska’s state government depends heavily on revenues from North Slope oil and in early 2002 was facing a budget shortfall of $1.1 billion. Murkowski was one of the leaders of the bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus, which sought tax increases—a position opposite to that of her father, who was running for governor on a platform of no new taxes. Murkowski pushed hard for increasing the alcohol tax from 3 cents a drink to 10 cents, and her bill was enacted, giving Alaska the nation’s highest alcohol tax. She also angered conservatives when she voted against a bill restricting publicly-funded abortions. She said, “I may have a very short-lived political future here. But you know, I’ve got great kids and a great husband, and I’m going to have a good heart, and I’m going to stand up for the women of the state of Alaska, and I’m going to vote no.” But she has also said that abortion should be legal only when a mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. Still, Alaska Right to Life opposed her. She had a tough fight for reelection in 2002 against conservative Nancy Dahlstrom, who attacked her for favoring tax increases and tapping the state’s Permanent Fund to pay its bills. Murkowski won by only 57 votes. After the election, she was chosen state House majority leader.

Also in 2002, her father, with two years left in his U.S. Senate term, was elected governor. (Republican state legislators saw to it that he, and not outgoing Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, appointed a successor. Earlier in the year, they passed, over Knowles’ veto, a law barring a governor from appointing a successor until five days after the vacancy occurred.) Murkowski said he was looking for someone with legislative experience who was young enough to serve many years and who shared his views on Alaska issues. He unveiled a short list of 26 potential nominees that included Gen. Joseph Ralston, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe; retired Gen. Mark Hamilton, president of the University of Alaska; and his daughter. On December 20, he announced that he had decided to appoint Lisa Murkowski. It was the first time a governor had appointed his or her child to the Senate.

Most Republicans and many Democrats praised Murkowski’s abilities, but others called it a case of nepotism that would undermine public trust in the office. For her part, Murkowski stressed that she and her father kept their political lives separate. “We have always maintained very separate identities, at least for the time I have been in the legislature,” she said. “I haven’t called him for counseling, and typically he doesn’t offer.”

As she served the remaining two years of her father’s term, Murkowski was acutely aware that she would be closely watched by her critics for signs that she was not up to the job. She proved not only competent, but  exceeded expectations. She got seats on the committees that put her at the center of most issues important to Alaska.

Of those, the most important was the Energy Committee. In taking over as its chair, Murkowski hoped to implement an energy plan she had develped calling for faster permitting and environmental reviews of new projects as well as expanded drilling on federal lands and waters. She also sought to supplant federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing with states' efforts. Other initiatives included getting the Commerce Department to lift a 39-year-old ban on crude oil exports, expanding funding for nuclear power and providing better oversight for Energy Department loan-guarantee programs to avoid controversies like the Solyndra Co. solar investment.

She got an early opportunity to push a key part of her agenda when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called up, as his first major bill in the 114th Congress (2015-16), approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project. She worked closely with Energy's ranking Democrat, Washington state's Maria Cantwell, even though Cantwell opposed the project. As a consequence of McConnell's vow to reinstitute free-wheeling debate, the two women dealt with nearly 250 amendments. They negotiated with each other about whether amendments were substantive or largely for messaging purposes, and won praise from colleagues. That Murkowski and Cantwell “have been able to maintain good relations and get through this is a testament to both of them and why we’d like to see more women in the Senate,” Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

But Murkowski was far less happy with President Obama when he declared millions of acres of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness. She considered the move, which delighted environmentalists, a violation of Alaska's "soverignty," and promised to use every tool at her disposal to reverse it. "There's so much focus on the wildlife, on the polar bear and the critters and the birds. And they are important. Don't get me wrong," she told National Public Radio. "But equally important, more important, is the obligation that we have to the people who live there, who have been there for centuries, many of them."

It helped Murkowski when she initially arrived in the Senate that longtime family friend Stevens took her under his wing. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Stevens was then one of the most influential members of Congress. Her biggest success came in October 2004, when she sponsored a bill creating federal loan guarantees for a 3,500-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from the North Slope to the lower 48, a major economic venture for the state. Her pipeline bill, with the guiding hand of Stevens, passed as part of the appropriations for military construction projects that year. Stevens praised the work of his former intern, saying that Murkowski “is a hell of a lot better senator than her dad ever was.” (She returned his loyalty in 2009, when she asked President George W. Bush to pardon Stevens after his conviction for concealing $250,000 in gifts from an oil executive. Bush declined, but the conviction was later thrown out because of prosecutors’ errors.)

No Alaska Republican senator had ever been defeated for reelection, but Murkowski entered the 2004 campaign in weak condition. She had primary opposition from conservative former legislator Mike Miller, who attacked her stands on abortion, gun rights, and taxes. Miller was even supported by her father’s lieutenant governor, Loren Leman. But Murkowski was better financed and had the support of Stevens and Rep. Don Young. She won the primary 58%-37%.

Her opponent in the general election was Knowles, the most successful Alaska Democrat in recent times. A Vietnam veteran and Yale classmate and friend of George W. Bush, Knowles ran a restaurant in Anchorage and had been twice elected the city’s mayor in the 1980s and twice elected governor in the 1990s. Knowles criticized Murkowski for not supporting more spending for veterans’ health care. In her defense, Stevens said that Murkowski had supported over $1 billion for veterans’ health. Knowles said that, knowing what he did in 2004, he would not have voted for the Iraq war resolution two years earlier; Murkowski said she would have.

Looming over the campaign was the nepotism issue. Knowles’ pollster said that 54% of people found it a convincing reason to vote against Murkowski, and she trailed, usually by narrow margins, in most polls during the campaign. Organizers obtained 50,000 signatures for a ballot measure to ban governors from appointing new senators, which later passed with 56% of the vote. Against this, Republicans raised the issue of party and seniority. Stevens said Alaska would be hurt if Democrats gained a majority that year in the Senate and made the point that Murkowski, at age 47, would have a chance of amassing more seniority than would 61-year-old Knowles.

This was one of the national Democrats’ best chances to pick up a Republican seat in 2004, but this red state ended up giving its GOP junior senator a full term, by 49%-46%. Like her father in the 2002 governor’s race, Murkowski ran behind by a wide margin in the Bush and by a lesser margin in the Panhandle. In historically Republican Anchorage and Fairbanks, she ran only narrowly ahead. Her winning margins came in south-central Alaska, in the fast-growing arc around Anchorage.

Murkowski has established a moderate voting record, considerably closer to the middle of the road than her father’s. She assumed a much larger role in the Senate on Alaska-centric issues after Stevens lost his bid for reelection in 2008 amid the corruption scandal. By 2009, she had won the respect of many of her colleagues and was moving up the ladder. She secured a seat on the Appropriations Committee.

Republican leaders sought to help her in other ways. She was invited into the Senate GOP leadership by becoming a counsel to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. When Arizona Republican John Ensign stepped down as Republican Policy Committee chairman in 2009 after acknowledging an extramarital affair, Murkowski replaced South Dakota’s John Thune as the conference vice chair while Thune moved into Ensign’s old slot.

She pursued the Alaska delegation’s long-standing goal of opening up ANWR to oil and gas exploration, an idea popular in Alaska but long opposed by environmental groups and Democrats. She tried a new tack in 2008, promoting a bill that would automatically open the area to drilling if world oil prices topped $125 a barrel for five days, a strategy designed to take advantage of pressure Congress was feeling from soaring consumer prices at the pump. On the Energy Committee, Murkowski developed a cordial relationship with New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman, the panel’s similarly pragmatic Democratic chairman. The two shared an interest in pressing for a wide range of energy solutions, including renewable sources and nuclear power, in addition to oil and gas drilling. They successfully reported a bipartisan energy bill out of the committee in 2009. But she split with him on the issue of letting the Environmental Protection Agency regulate greenhouse-gas emissions without congressional approval. She led Republican opposition to the proposal.

But her first full term was also marred by an ethics controversy. In late 2006, Murkowski and her husband purchased an acre of waterfront land on Alaska’s Kenai River from developer Bob Penney, a friend of Stevens. An ethics watchdog group charged that the $179,500 the couple paid for the lot was well below the market value of approximately $350,000. Penney told local newspaper reporters that he had sold Murkowski the land, next to property he owned on the river, for the assessed value. However, in early 2007, just weeks after the sale, the assessed value on the lot went up to $215,000. In July 2007, Murkowski called the deal “nothing nefarious or underhanded” but said she had decided to sell the land back to Penney for the purchase price of $179,500.

Murkowski’s independence and centrist positions put her in the center of high-profile national debates. Suspicious of her abortion stance, the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family called her a “squishy Republican” and ran ads in the state that said she was likely to support Democratic obstruction of nominees. When Bush asked Congress to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act, Murkowski was one of four Republican senators to insist the anti-terrorism bill include more civil liberties protections. She teamed with Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin in 2007 on an amendment to the farm bill to raise nutritional standards for food and beverages sold in school vending machines and cafeterias.

Murkowski has been aggressive on Alaska issues. She is also the leading advocate in the Senate for joining the Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty that sets policy for ocean resources, including vast untapped supplies of oil in the Arctic. Some 155 countries have ratified the treaty, but American conservatives have long argued that the United States needs no such document to assert its claims over the Arctic and its natural resources. She used her position on Appropriations in 2010 to try to restore funding to Alaska’s Denali Commission, a program that funds primary care clinics in the state, but she was unsuccessful. In 2006, not to be out-Alaska’ed by anyone, Murkowski bested eight other senators during a Kenai River conservation fundraiser by catching a 63-pound king salmon.

She hoped that her work on such issues, together with frequent trips home to make the case for her growing influence, would insulate her against a strenuous reelection challenge in 2010, but no such luck. Murkowski’s Republican primary opponent was Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller, a self-described “constitutional conservative” who was backed by the then wildly popular former Gov. Sarah Palin. Her followers in the tea party movement flocked to his camp, pouring in donations and funding television and radio advertisements in the weeks leading to the August 24 primary.

Miller’s challenge by itself would probably not have proven fatal for Murkowski. In the closing weeks of the campaign, Miller failed to come within striking distance of Murkowski. But the presence on the ballot of an anti-abortion referendum likely tipped the balance in Miller’s favor in the final days. The measure, which called for parental notification for minors seeking abortions, brought thousands of voters to the polls, most of them in favor of Measure 2. Murkowski’s ads touting her record of accomplishment were insufficient to overcome her record on abortion rights, and Miller managed to pull ahead of her by fewer than 1,668 votes out of 90,000 cast. A count of absentee and provisional ballots cut the margin to about 1,200. Nevertheless, she conceded on August 30.

In the weeks that followed, however, Murkowski publicly floated potential ways to run in the general election. One option for her was to run as a Libertarian, though officials from that party rejected the idea because they disagreed with her on taxes and the Iraq war. The other choice was a write-in bid, a strategy that had not been successful since Republican Strom Thurmond won in South Carolina in 1954. After saying she agonized over the decision, she announced on September 17 that she would run, contending that voters had encouraged her to do it because they couldn’t support Miller or the Democratic nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. With the slogan “Let’s Make History,” she embarked on a spirited effort to educate voters on how to properly spell her name and cited the considerable seniority that federally-dependent Alaska would lack if she lost.

Miller, meanwhile, became enmeshed in several embarrassing controversies. Confronted with news reports that he had been disciplined in a previous job for using government computers for political purposes, he initially lied about it. He subsequently declared he would no longer discuss his background with the media, only to have his security guards handcuff a reporter who questioned him. On Election Day, state officials reported that 41% of the votes went to a write-in candidate, though the ballots had to be read manually to determine the name. Miller filed a federal lawsuit asking for any votes that didn’t clearly spell her name to be discounted. The state courts rejected his argument and said voter intent sufficed. The counting began. By November 17, Murkowski had established a lead of more than 10,000 votes, including 8,153 that were awarded to her after Miller’s challenge was overruled. The Associated Press declared that her lead was insurmountable and she claimed victory.

The unusual way in which Murkowski retained her Senate seat raised the question whether she would steer a moderate course or vote as a party loyalist. Walking the line between supporting her party and charting an independent path proved difficult, however. In March 2011, The New York Times ran a story pointing out that Murkowski voted for a bill that cut $2 billion from Head Start, a preschool program for impoverished children that she had supported in the past. Murkowski defended her vote to The Times, saying, “I did not get caught up in the individual cuts. … My vote was a marker for moving towards a greater degree in a reduction in spending.” She also supported Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s failed amendment in March 2012 to give health insurers the right to refuse contraception coverage on religious grounds. Murkowski later backtracked and told the Anchorage Daily News that her vote was a mistake.

Murkowski bucked her party as the only Republican to join Democrats in voting to break a filibuster of the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Though she did not support Halligan’s confirmation, Murkowski maintained that judicial nominees should receive up-or-down votes without being filibustered. She was also the only Republican to oppose a GOP filibuster of another controversial Obama nominee to the appellate court, Goodwin Liu. In May 2011, Murkowski was one of five Republican senators to vote against a House-passed budget bill by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that included a sweeping plan to revamp Medicare.

She won a legislative victory in June 2012 when President Obama signed into law her bill settling a longstanding dispute between Alaska natives and the state and federal government over fishing and hunting land around Salmon Lake. The new law designated more than 14,000 acres of land in the area to the locally-controlled Bering Straits Native Corporation, while allowing the Bureau of Land Management to own nine acres of Salmon Lake campground.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 709
Washington, DC 20510-0203

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 709
Washington, DC 20510-0203

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

510 L Street Suite 600
Anchorage, AK 99501-1956

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 271-3735

(877) 857-0322

510 L Street Suite 600
Anchorage, AK 99501-1956

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 456-0233

(907) 451-7146

101 12th Avenue Suite 329
Fairbanks, AK 99701-6278

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

101 12th Avenue Suite 329
Fairbanks, AK 99701-6278

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

805 Frontage Road Suite 105
Kenai, AK 99611

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 283-5808

(907) 283-4363

805 Frontage Road Suite 105
Kenai, AK 99611

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

1900 First Avenue Suite 225
Ketchikan, AK 99901-5526

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 225-6880

(907) 225-0390

1900 First Avenue Suite 225
Ketchikan, AK 99901-5526

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 376-7665

(907) 376-8526

851 East Westpoint Drive Suite 307
Wasilla, AK 99654-7183

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

851 East Westpoint Drive Suite 307
Wasilla, AK 99654-7183

DISTRICT OFFICE

(907) 586-7277

(907) 586-7201

800 Glacier Avenue Suite 101
Juneau, AK 99801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

800 Glacier Avenue Suite 101
Juneau, AK 99801

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-5301

PO Box 100847
Anchorage, AK 99510

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 100847
Anchorage, AK 99510

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Aerospace

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Arts

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Banking

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Budget

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Campaign

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Census

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Ryan West
Legislative Correspondent

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Amy McElroy
Coast Guard Fellow

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Consumers

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Crime

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Economics

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Education

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Energy

Ryan West
Legislative Correspondent

Phillip Dodd
Legislative Correspondent

Environment

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Amy McElroy
Coast Guard Fellow

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Phillip Dodd
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Finance

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Foreign

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Govt Ops

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Grants

Phillip Dodd
Legislative Correspondent

Gun Issues

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Health

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Ryan West
Legislative Correspondent

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Housing

Human Rights

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Immigration

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Insurance

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Intelligence

Judiciary

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Land Use

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Amy McElroy
Coast Guard Fellow

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Medicare

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Military

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Native Americans

Ayla O'Scannell
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Intern Coordinator

Public Works

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Rules

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Rural Affairs

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Science

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Amy McElroy
Coast Guard Fellow

Small Business

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Social Security

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Tax

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Technology

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Phillip Dodd
Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Transportation

Ephraim Froehlich
Legislative Assistant

Amy McElroy
Coast Guard Fellow

Matt Borger
Legislative Aide

Veterans

Nathan Bergerbest
Deputy Chief of Staff

Parker Haymans
Legislative Correspondent

Welfare

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Women

Garrett Boyle
Legislative Director

Chelsea Holt
Legislative Aide

Karen McCarthy
Senior Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Lisa Murkowski
Votes: 101,091
Percent: 39.49%
Joe Miller
Votes: 90,839
Percent: 35.49%
Scott McAdams
Votes: 60,045
Percent: 23.46%
2010 PRIMARY
Joe Miller
Votes: 55,878
Percent: 51.0%
Lisa Murkowski
Votes: 53,872
Percent: 49.0%
2006 PRIMARY
Sarah Palin
Votes: 51,443
Percent: 51.0%
John Binkley
Votes: 30,349
Percent: 30.0%
Lisa Murkowski
Votes: 19,412
Percent: 19.0%
2004 GENERAL
Lisa Murkowski
Votes: 149,773
Percent: 49.0%
Tony Knowles
Votes: 140,424
Percent: 46.0%
Other
Votes: 18,118
Percent: 6.0%
2004 PRIMARY
Lisa Murkowski
Votes: 45,710
Percent: 58.0%
Mike Miller
Votes: 29,313
Percent: 37.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (49%)

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