Interview with Senator Lisa Murkowski

Interview with Senator Lisa Murkowski

By John King, USA - October 20, 2010

KING: Our brand-new poll just out tonight shows Senator Lisa Murkowski has a realistic shot at making history. She and Republican Joe Miller are tied at 37 percent among Alaska's likely voters with Democrat Scott McAdams far behind. A lot of things have to go right, if not perfect, for Murkowski to become the first write-in candidate to win a Senate seat since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954. The senator is in Fairbanks tonight and with us to go one on one.

Senator, let me start there. This poll is remarkable. It shows you as a write-in candidate at 37/37. You know, I'm sure all your advisers tell you, a number is one thing. It's tough when people have to not only fill in that little circle and spell out your name, how do you get from a dead heat today to victory on Election Day?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Well, let me tell you, you tell Alaskans that we can't do something and, by golly, our backbone just gets a little bit stiffer and we say, of course we can. You don't think that we can't fill in an oval and write in a name? So we're doing things a little bit perhaps out of the box, out of the norm. We've got little arm bracelets that tell you, fill it in, write it in, fill in the oval, write in Murkowski, here's how it's spelled. Yes, we can do this. We can write the book on how to run a successful write-in campaign for the United States Senate. We're doing it today. People across the state, people across the country now, are waking up and saying, yes, she can do this. Alaska is making this happen.

KING: Clearly people who don't want you to do this are taking notice. Among those is one of your colleagues in the United States Senate, Jim DeMint. He has a conservative pack. He supports Miller, the Republican nominee. Senator DeMint's pack is running an ad. You had said Joe Miller is out of the mainstream and he's extreme. Jim DeMint's ad makes the same case about you. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are only three Senate candidates but only one choice to defend the unborn. Republican Joe Miller is pro- life and the only candidate pledged to oppose taxpayer funding for abortion. Scott McAdams and Lisa Murkowski are pro-abortion and they refuse to not use your taxes to pay for it. That's extreme.


KING: What do you make of the ad? In a campaign, this is an election about spending, taxes, the reach of the role of the government in Washington, D.C. is the abortion issue going to be decisive in Alaska?

MURKOWSKI: Well, I tell you, first of all, Jim DeMint know, as does Joe Miller know, that I have always drawn the line on federal funding for abortions. So Joe has misconstrued my record here in Alaska. The fact that Jim DeMint from South Carolina is playing in this race in Alaska -- I think Alaskans are looking at that and saying, you know what, this is our state, this is our race, we will be the ones who chooses who will represent us in Washington, D.C. so, you know, it is an issue that is out there. Jim DeMint is making it an issue. But I think most people in Alaska as in the rest of the country, they're focused on jobs, on what's going on with the economy. They're focused on who can deliver for our state those things that we need for the next ten years out. And further. That's where the focus of Alaskans is.

KING: You have a new ad making that case that include ace testimonial from the former Senator Ted Stevens. It was taped I believe about 10 days before Senator Stevens' tragic death. I asked your opponent about that earlier in the week. While he paid tribute to Stevens and his service to Alaska, he also said this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think Alaskans recognize that the past era, that really is coming to an end. We can see that in the fiscal instability of the country. But we also know as Alaskans we have the capacity within the state to create jobs, resource, development, getting the federal government out of the regulatory burden that has really stopped that development, tax reform, making sure Obama care doesn't get passed.


KING: His point there was essentially that elect Lisa Murkowski and what you get is more earmarks, more bridges to nowhere, and that has to change.

MURKOWSKI: What you get when you elect Lisa Murkowski is you get somebody who builds on that legacy that Ted Stevens built for our state for 40 years that continues on that path, that trajectory, to helping a young state like Alaska build us out. We've only been a state for 50 years. We do not have the transportation infrastructure that all you in the lower 48 have. We don't have energy grids that tie us in. We're -- we pay the highest energy of any state in the nation. So when we ask for assistance with connection, with transmission grids, when we work to develop a low-cost energy solution for our state, somehow or another, that's all pork now. Well, the rest of the country has enjoyed the benefits for a period of 100 years-plus. Alaska is still continuing. What I am delivering to Alaska is a future that holds hope and opportunity for jobs, for people in this state. What Joe Miller is offering the people of Alaska is this glass half full. The gloom and doom. You know, we're starting all over again. We're on the brink of bankruptcy. We need to be able to provide those opportunities for the people in this state through resource development. Well, I'm the one that's the most senior member on the energy committee who can help to facilitate these policies that will allow us to have the jobs --

KING: Let me sneak this in quickly in closing. The former governor Sarah Palin who opposes your candidacy and supports Miller gave an interview to one of our producers Shannon Travis the other day in which she said essentially if the Republicans ignore the message of the tea party, quote, the GOP is through. By extension, you could argue that you are ignoring the message of the tea party. That you were defeated in the primary and you should have gone away. Do you see a civil war in the party?

MURKOWSKI: First of all, I think it's important to recognize that many of the issues that are brought up by those in the tea party, the issue of pushing back against government overregulation, how we deal with debt and spending -- these are issues that we should all be focused on, Republicans, Democrats, tea parties, non-tea parties. So let's make sure we're in agreement there. I think what is important is how you achieve the ends here. When we're talking about reducing spending, let's not deceive people into thinking if you eliminate earmarks, all of a sudden, we will not be operating at a deficit. We've got to be more realistic when it comes to dealing with our entitlements and that level of spending. But right now there's a lot of very simplistic solutions out there to some very difficult and complex problems that we face as a state and as a nation. I want to be able to deal with those in a manner that is realistic, pragmatic, thoughtful, reaches across the lines, works to build consensus. Consensus should not be a dirty word in the political process. And yet there is some who believe we should never be reaching across the aisle. I couldn't disagree more.

KING: Senator Lisa Murkowski is the write in candidate for Alaska Senate. We will check in again over the next 13 days. Senator, appreciate your time tonight.

MURKOWSKI: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

KING: Thank you.


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