Columns 2017

We all know how she got the job

Let me state at the outset that I am friends with one of Lisa Murkowski’s siblings. But our friendship is based much more on a shared love of food than any political discourse. So when I write about Lisa, I’m writing from the perspective of someone who knows her only as a public figure.

Having said that let me say this. Would all Alaskans who are still fixated on how she got her job please get a life. I’m sure I’m not the only Alaskan who is sick and tired of the rant about how she’s only our senator because her dad gave her the job. That was in 2002. In 2004, she won that seat on her own. And she did it again in 2010 in an historic write in campaign. And she just did it again.

So Alaskans have had numerous chances to vote her out of office. Instead, they wanted her so much they gave her a win on a write in ballot. And with a last name like Murkowski, that was a more daunting task than it might otherwise have seemed if her name had been Jones.

I probably disagree with Lisa as much, if not way more, than most Alaskans. Anyone who reads this column knows that we come from vastly different ideologies. Our opinions more often differ than align. But if I want to bring any of those points up, I am shooting myself in the foot if I start with a rant on how she initially got her job. Her dad gave it to her. Get over it. That happened 15 years ago and is relevant to nothing happening today. If you don’t like what she’s doing, start with what you don’t like and build your case. But don’t start with a foundation so old it crumbles at the first touch.

So let’s talk now about some of our senator’s recent votes. The no vote on Betsy DeVos got her a lot of publicity, most of it positive. On the other hand, there were those voices that said she voted no only after receiving permission from the Republican powers that be once they counted and knew they had enough votes without her. I want to believe the former. It being politics, I have the uncomfortable feeling it could very well be the latter. In the end, she had it both ways. By voting no, she pleased her constituents without endangering her political position in the Congress.

Rumor had it that she would have also voted no on the (now former) nominee for Labor Secretary. It’s hard to know what would have happened had he not withdrawn. To say he had a lot of opposition in Alaska is to put it mildly. So it would have been very interesting to see if she voted no in defiance of party leaders.

Whether you agree or disagree with her on these or other issues, it has nothing to do with the way she got her job in 2002. It has everything to do with how independent she is, if at all, of the Republican power structure. When she ran as a write in candidate, she promised to represent all Alaskans no matter their political party. Some think she has totally reneged on that promise and only made it to keep her job. They feel that the minute she won, she ran back to the welcoming arms of the other Republicans in the Senate. Others feel that she has made a decent effort to represent all Alaskans even if the slant is towards a more conservative than liberal bent. They feel she has bucked the party line on issues like Planned Parenthood funding and deserves credit for taking the heat.

Whichever side of this debate you fall on, just remember one thing. It has not a gosh darn thing to do with how she got her job.

In case you haven’t noticed over the past 15 years, the woman is a consummate politician. Whether she was initially handed the job or ran for it on her own, she would have been a political force in Alaska. And I’m guessing she’d have ended up representing us in some way or other because she is a talented politician who was going to be heard.

So let’s officially bury the “Lisa was handed her job” moan and replace it with real criticism on those issues that matter to you and which you think she’s getting wrong. But if you bring up the nepotism thing, I promise my eyes will glaze over and I’ll stop paying attention in an instant.