Interview with Senator Lisa Murkowski

Interview with Senator Lisa Murkowski

By John King, USA - November 12, 2010

KING: Alaska's vote counters are about halfway through the 92,000 write in ballots in the U.S. Senate race. Nine out of ten ballots are being sorted for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. She had to run as a write in candidate after she lost the primary to Joe Miller. Senator Murkowski joins us now from Anchorage. Senator, Mr. Miller, as this count goes underway and as you know from your campaign, people had to fill in the oval and write your name. He says the candidate named Murkowski seems to be getting special treatment from state officials, is that true?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: What people have done is they have filled in the oval and they have spelled the name right and Miller doesn't know what to do with the fact that people actually did what they were supposed to do. What we're seeing now, I believe quite honestly are acts of desperation, we're seeing lawsuits that are being filed. We're seeing ballots that are perfectly clear, perfectly clear ballots being charged.

KING: Many of the ballots are exactly spelled correctly. There are some that are close but not exact. There are some that say Lisa m-o-r-k, or Lisa m-e-r-k, they demean you, but they're not spelled exactly like you. He's contesting that he believes the name isn't spelled exactly right that it's a violation of state law.


JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: We're going to be the kind of candidate that looks to the law and expects the rule of law to be applied in this case. The people of the state of Alaska elected a legislature that enacted a law that controls exactly how these ballots are to be treated. That's what we're going to insist on is that the rule of law is applied.


KING: His point is exactly as these ballots should be treated meaning everything has to be spelled perfectly and your advocates say there's a 2007 case where the Alaska court says we have consistently emphasized the issue of voter intent, so if it's clear it's Murkowski, it should count, but Mr. Miller says it has to be spelled right.

MURKOWSKI: Look at what Mr. Miller is challenging, an example of a ballot today, Lisa Murkowski spelled exactly right. But the l instead of being printed is a cursive l. He's challenging that. I ask you, what would the rule of law be on that? It's clear what the voter intent is, the voter intent is Lisa Murkowski. This is the level of challenge that they have resorted to. And again, I would suggest to you that when you make challenges like this, you are working to disenfranchise that voter.

KING: What is your sense of when this will be resolved, not only the count but the legal challenges, in the context of when the new Congress believes in January, do you believe there will be, whether it is you or Mr. Miller, that there will be a senator from Alaska who will by that point be certified the winner?

MURKOWSKI: I absolutely believe so. In fact I think we will know with greater certainty by the end of this weekend, we will be able to move beyond where we are with the count in Juneau and Mr. Miller will realize that any legal challenges that he may choose to advance are effectively going to be mute.

KING: If you are here as Alaska senator in January, one of the questions for the Republicans in the new Congress will be whether they are willing to ban earmarks. You in the past have had 57 earmarks totally $27 million in 2010. In 2009, 95 earmarks totaling about $257 million in fiscal 2009. Do you want to continue with the earmarks or do you that the will of the voter, if you will, especially the conservative voters this year has pushed for a ban?

MURKOWSKI: I think that the way that Senator Jim Inhofe has been presenting this argument in saying, look, if you're really serious about reducing spending if you're really serious about making sure that there is openness and transparency in the process, then eliminating earmarks is not going to be the end-all and be all of the spending issues.

KING: So the tea party's wrong?

MURKOWSKI: What Inhofe's -- well, the tea party needs to and it's not just the tea party, there needs to be a clear understanding of what an earmark really is. I don't think that's the direction we should go, and I think most people, particularly the tea party people who say states rights, we'll make sure that the states have a say in it. We'll make sure that your state's representatives have a say in it. Don't shift it over to the agencies for that decision making to be done there. KING: Earmarks are just a tiny percentage of the spending in Washington and there's a bigger conversation that's starting now about based on this president's commission of deficit and debt reduction in the long-term, the immediate reaction was pretty partisan. People on the left said no way because their proposal touched social security and Medicare, many people on the right said no which because in addition to a lot of spending cuts it includes some revenue increases, higher taxes. Is that your position? If there's any higher taxes, no way, or should both parties say let's set ideology aside before we have a conversation and decide we can't cut social security and Medicare or can't maybe in the end have higher taxes?

MURKOWSKI: I think we have got to be willing to put everything out on the table. Now, we have already seen the people starting to line up and say this can't be on this, this can't be on. If we can't get beyond all of the sacred cows that we all have out there, we're never going to get to tackling these very difficult decisions. You know, we shouldn't -- you shouldn't shoot the messenger because they have put that out there as an issue. You shouldn't say, well, we cannot go there before we even had the conversation. I think we all need to take a very critical look, a very critical review at some of the proposals that are being put out there, we need to be in a listening mode right now, rather than automatically jumping to this point where we're not even going to be able to talk about it. Because if we get into that point, we will never be able to resolve these very difficult issues that we have in terms of how we meaningfully reduce our spending.

KING: The last time we spoke, you voiced some displeasure at one of your senator colleagues, Jim DeMint whose political action committee was spending on behalf of Joe Miller in the race up there. You voiced your displeasure with that and then I spoke to Senator DeMint and he said this.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We have some making up to do, I'm sure if she comes back, but I'm still hopeful Joe Miller will pull off a miracle there in Alaska.

KING: If you come back to the Senate, peace with Senator DeMint or will that feud continue.

MURKOWSKI: He has suggested that he's got some making up to do. I'll let him make that first move.

KING: Lisa Murkowski is the Republican Senator from Alaska, at the moment a write in candidate, awaiting the results from that election. Senator Murkowski thanks for your time.

MURKOWSKI: Thank you John.


John King, USA

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