Lisa Ann Murkowski (born May 22, 1957) is the senior United States Senator from the State of Alaska and a member of the Republican Party. She was appointed to the Senate in 2002 by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski. After losing a Republican primary in 2010, she became the second person ever to win a U.S. Senate election through write-in votes.
Born in Ketchikan, Alaska, she is the daughter of former U.S. Senator and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski. She graduated from Georgetown University and received her law degree from Willamette University College of Law. After working as an attorney in the 1980s and 1990s, she was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1998. Shortly after being elected House Majority Leader in 2002, she was appointed to the United States Senate by her father.
Murkowski was re-elected to a full term in 2004. Her 2010 re-election grew turbulent when former magistrate judge Joe Miller defeated her in the Republican primary. Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign, winning the general election. The long-shot campaign made national headlines: the only other Senate candidate to win a write-in vote was Strom Thurmond in 1954. Murkowski is the only current Republican Senator from any West Coast state. Since winning re-election, her voting record has become more moderate when compared to her previous years in the Senate.
Murkowski was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, the daughter of Nancy R. (née Gore) and Frank Murkowski. Her paternal great-grandfather was of Polish descent, and her mother was had Irish and French Canadian ancestry. As a child, she and her family moved all over the state due to her father’s job as a banker.
Murkowski earned a B.A. in economics from Georgetown University in 1980, the same year her father was elected to the U.S. Senate. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She received her law degree from Willamette University College of Law in 1985. She failed the bar exam three times before passing it in 1987 when she became a member of the Alaska Bar Association. She was employed as an attorney in the Anchorage District Court Clerk’s office, working there from 1987 to 1989. She was an attorney in private practice in Anchorage, Alaska from 1989 to 1998. She also served, from 1990 to 1991, on the mayor’s task force on the homeless.
In 1998, Murkowski was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives and named as House Majority Leader for the 2003–2004 session. She never served as Majority Leader, due to her appointment to the Senate. Murkowski sat on the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education and chaired both the Labor and Commerce and the Military and Veterans Affairs Committees. In 1999 she introduced legislation establishing a Joint Armed Services Committee.
Murkowski is considered a moderate Republican. She is generally pro-choice on abortion and supports non-federally funded embryonic stem cell research. She is also a member of the Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans For Choice, and The Wish List (Women in the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice women Republicans.
Murkowski has helped protect and ensure that health care is delivered by the 100 percent Native American-owned and controlled Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and a network of tribally operated hospitals and clinics in rural Alaska hubs and villages. Murkowski is an active member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as Vice Chair of the Committee during the 110th Congress. She is the Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Committee on Appropriations, and has a continuing role on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In 2009, she was honored with a Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians. She is the first Alaskan to receive the award.
The Washington Post mentioned a “drumbeat of warnings” concerning the 8(a) Business Development Program. The Post also published a chart that showed that during Murkowski’s tenure in the Senate 8(a) contracting share rose from a few million for Alaska Native Corporations to over six billion a year in 2009.
Murkowski opposed President Barack Obama’s health reform legislation; she voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and she voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Murkowski has stated numerous times that she would like to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Murkowski voted for H.R. 976, which called for the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide coverage for additional uninsured children. That bill passed both the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by President George W. Bush. She supports health care reforms in her native state as well, largely because health care costs for Alaskans are up to 70% higher than costs in the contiguous United States.
Murkowski was one of five Republican senators who voted with Democrats for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Murkowski is currently the Ranking Member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She has given her support to efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For the 109th Congress, Republicans for Environmental Protection, a group dedicated to environmental causes, gave Murkowski a rating of 2%, noting that in 2006 she voted against S.C. Resolution 83, intended to bolster energy security and lower energy-related environmental impacts , against an amendment to S. 728 that would make the Army Corps of Engineers more accountable for the environmental and economic impacts of their projects, for oil drilling in ANWR, for offshore oil and gas drilling.
On December 14, 2007, the Senate passed an energy bill that, among other things, encourages the use of renewable fuels. The legislation, which Murkowski supported, raises the renewable fuels standard to require the production of 36 billion US gallons (140,000,000 m3) of biofuels by 2022, compared to the current production of about 7 billion US gallons (26,000,000 m3) a year. She introduced a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that major industries can produce. In a statement, Murkowski said, “We cannot turn a blind eye to the EPA’s efforts to impose back-door climate regulations with no input from Congress.”
In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Murkowski opposed a bill that would have raised the liability cap for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. She said that such a large cap would jeopardize various businesses, and that exposing companies to greater risk would make it impossible for smaller companies to compete.
Murkowski supported the repeal of Don’t ask, don’t tell after careful consideration of the Department of Defense report. “Our military leaders have made a compelling case that they can successfully implement a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” she said. “It is infinitely preferable for Congress to repeal the law, and allow the service chiefs to develop and execute a new policy, than to invite a court-ordered reversal of the law with no allowance for a military-directed implementation. I’ve heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it’s time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them.” On December 18, 2010, Murkowski voted in favor of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.
In July 2007, Murkowski stated she would sell back land she bought from Anchorage businessman Bob Penney, a day after a Washington watchdog group filed a Senate ethics complaint against her, alleging that Penney sold the property well below market value. The Anchorage Daily Newsnoted, “The transaction amounted to an illegal gift worth between $70,000 and $170,000, depending on how the property was valued, according to the complaint by the National Legal and Policy Center.” According to the Associated Press, Murkowski bought the land from two developers tied to the Ted Stevens probe.
In 2008, Murkowski amended her Senate financial disclosures for 2004 through 2006, adding income of $60,000 per year from the sale of a property in 2003, and more than $40,000 a year from the sale of her “Alaska Pasta Company” in 2005.
Murkowski, while a member of the state House, was appointed by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski, to his own unexpired Senate seat in December 2002, which he had vacated after being elected governor. The appointment caused a controversy in the state, and eventually resulted in a referendum that stripped the governor of his power to directly appoint replacement Senators.
Murkowski faced the most difficult election of her career in the August 24, 2010, Republican Party primary election against Joe Miller, a former U.S. magistrate judge and a candidate supported by former Governor Sarah Palin. The initial ballot count for the primary showed her trailing Miller by a margin of 51–49%, with absentee ballots yet to be tallied. After the first round of absentee ballots were counted on August 31, Murkowski conceded the race, stating that she did not believe that Miller’s lead would be overcome in the next round of absentee vote count.
Following the outcome of the primary election, the Murkowski campaign floated the idea of her running as a Libertarian in the general election. But on August 29, 2010, the executive board of the state Libertarian Party voted not to consider allowing Murkowski on its ticket for the U.S. Senate race.
On September 17, 2010, Murkowski said that she would mount a write-in campaign for the Senate seat. Her write-in campaign was aided in large part with substantial monetary aid and assistance from the Native corporations and PACs, as well as support from state teachers and firefighters unions.
On November 17, 2010, it was reported by the Associated Press that Murkowski became the first Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win a write-in campaign, thereby retaining her seat. Murkowski emerged victorious after a two-week count of write-in ballots showed she had overtaken Miller. Miller did not concede defeat. U.S. Federal District Judge Ralph Beistline granted an injunction to stop the certification of the election due to “serious” legal issues and irregularities raised by Miller as to the hand count of absentee ballots. On December 10, 2010 an Alaskan judge dismissed Miller’s case clearing the way for Murkowski’s win; however, Miller appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, and the results were not certified. On Dec. 28, 2010, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline dismissed Miller’s lawsuit. Murkowski was certified as the winner on December 30 by Gov. Sean Parnell.