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Posted: 10/20/2004 10:43:22 PM EDT

Democratic U.S. Senator from Alaska? Hell Freezes?
Wed Oct 20, 2004 11:30 AM ET

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - Normally, a Democratic candidate for Alaska's Senate seat would have about as much chance for victory in Alaska as a team of cats would on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

President Bush won more than twice as many votes as Al Gore in 2000, and the state has been represented in Washington by Republicans alone for more than two decades.

But this is no normal year.

Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski's bid to retain her seat is overshadowed by the man who put her into office two years ago -- her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski. The elder Murkowski was in the Senate for 22 years before winning the statehouse and bequeathing his old job to his daughter, then a state lawmaker.

The appointment caused an uproar and was the first of many actions by Frank Murkowski to drive his popularity ratings to the lowest depths ever measured for an Alaska governor.

His daughter now faces a formidable challenger in Democrat Tony Knowles, a former two-term governor and Anchorage mayor who remains widely liked. Polls have the two nearly deadlocked, with Knowles slightly ahead.

The outcome of the race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate and gives the Democrats one of their best changes to pick up a Republican seat.

That is precisely why voters should return her to Washington, the younger Murkowski argues. A turnover to Democratic control would lessen the power of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and would jolt the smooth operations of Alaska's currently all-Republican team.

"Make no mistake. There are only two teams in the Senate. And it is not in our best interest to split the team," Murkowski said in a recent Anchorage speech.

She also characterizes Knowles as a pal of liberals and environmentalists, one of the most cutting insults one can hurl in a state dependent on energy and lumber businesses.

Knowles has replied by linking Murkowski with another institution disliked by many Alaskans: Exxon. He has blasted her for being dismissive of the 1989 Valdez oil spill and for supporting legislation granting tax breaks to Exxon, which later became Exxon Mobil Corp.


Images used in a Knowles advertisement of Murkowski delivering pro-drilling remarks while standing beneath an Exxon gas station sign struck at least one voter as "incredibly disturbing."

"That's a slap in the face," said R.J. Kopchak, a fisherman in the Prince William Sound town of Cordova.

Knowles said he sees Murkowski's appointment as part of a pattern of catering to the powerful -- like cruise lines and the pharmaceutical industry -- rather than ordinary citizens. But he is not making an explicit anti-nepotism argument, he said.

"I'm not making it an issue in my campaign. What I think people want to see is that (they) want a change, they want positive change," Knowles said at a recent community forum in Anchorage.

Or, as the tag line in one of his television spots puts it: "It's not how she got the job, it's what she's done with it."

If Knowles is not making an issue of nepotism, plenty of other Alaskans are. Anger over the appointment is so deep that there is a citizen initiative on the ballot that would strip the governor of all powers to fill a Senate vacancy. Letters to the editor in Anchorage's newspapers refer to "King Murkowski" and "Princess Lisa," and one bumper sticker spotted around town asks: "Yo Lisa, who's your daddy?"

To blame the senator for her father's appointment choice is unfair, her supporters argue. "I would hope that Lisa is judged on her actions. I think she's doing a great job," said Arliss Sturgulewski, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate.

Family ties among Alaska politicians are nothing unusual, said Sturgulewski, whose son is married to Lisa Murkowski's sister.

"It happens, and it'll happen again," she said.
Link Posted: 10/20/2004 10:52:52 PM EDT
Yup. It's the best shot the Dems have had at a Senate seat in 25+ years. Lisa wasn't the most popular choice to fill Frank's seat. With Knowles though, the Republican vote was always split between to candidates, so he was able to win two terms as governor. It's going to be tight, but I think Lisa will pull it out.
Link Posted: 10/20/2004 10:55:05 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/20/2004 10:57:09 PM EDT by raven]
Murkowski's appointment of his own daughter to his Senate seat surprised everyone, because it was just so unfathombly.........unseemly. There was a lot of speculation and guess work in the press about who Frank Murkowski would appoint to the Senate, but no one in their wildest dreams thought he'd do something like appoint his own fucking daughter, for exactly the reason we're seeing now.

Murkowski's obviously banking on the fact that that the Democratic party is so harmful to the interests of Alaskan industry, we'll hold our noses and vote for Lisa Murkowski in order to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate to help our very senior Senator Stevens and Congressman Young. That's really shitty of them to do, because Knowles is an OK guy, it's just that the national Democratic party are a bunch of fuckheads, and voting out mediocre Lisa Murkowski means putting power into the Democrats' hands.

Shitty situation, Frank's regal appointment is like a big "Fuck you, what are you going to do about it? Ruin the state?" to me, but I hate national Democrats (Alaska Democrats are OK), so I am voting for Murkowski
Link Posted: 10/20/2004 11:29:17 PM EDT
Not all democrats are bad...


only 99.9999998% are bad
Link Posted: 10/21/2004 6:14:24 AM EDT
I am surprised she is even still in the running. I heard a split of 45/55 in favor of Knowles. That should show you how much hostility there is towards the Democrats on the national stage with all her baggage.

Knowles ads on the radio, and probably TV, are pretty brutal. Lots of them are paid for by the National democrat party, yeah, they are targeting that seat.

Make no mistake, Knowles is a slimeball with good press, going back to his days in the Anchorage Assembly. The Daily News never printed a bad thing about him, and I dont' recall anythign negative said about him on TV.

He spent two terms as Governer paving the way for this race buying off the bush/native vote.
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