ANCHORAGE — Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday questioned how Alaskans have benefited from having a Democratic senator the past few years.
Murkowski told reporters she would work hard after Tuesday’s primary to help ensure Republicans win the seat held by Democrat Mark Begich, who is seeking re-election. Begich defeated longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens for the seat in 2008.
In a speech to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Monday, Murkowski said things such as limited development opportunities in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and federal plans that ignore the potential for drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are like sanctions on Alaska.
The state has had a mixed delegation for six years, she told reporters.
“Tell me how having a Democrat in the Senate, working with a Democrat administration, has benefited the state of Alaska,” Murkowski added later. “I’ve yet to see it.”
Begich spokesman Max Croes said Alaskans benefit “from having a voice in every discussion in Washington that knows Alaska, defends the Second Amendment and protects the rights of Alaska women.”
By email, he said Begich helped secure permits that Shell needed for Arctic drilling; pushed the administration for permits at Greens Creek, Red Dog and other mines; successfully fought against mail rate increases on rural Alaska; and has been part of the ongoing effort to bring two squadrons of F-35 fighter planes to Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks.
On a number of Alaska issues, the delegation, which also includes Republican Rep. Don Young, has worked together.
The issue of cooperation has been a prickly point in this campaign, with Begich referencing his work with Murkowski in campaign ads, and Murkowski saying he should run on his own record.
Young told Kodiak radio station KMXT he thought Begich has done a “good job.”
“I think some of his votes were wrong. But again I’ve known him since he was 10 years old and watched his growth. Everybody has to make up his own decision how they’d vote and not vote.”
At the state Republican convention in May, Young said his desire to get a Republican elected to replace Begich wasn’t personal. He said it was about ensuring that Harry Reid no longer was majority leader.
Murkowski blamed Reid for much of the gridlock in the Senate and said the current Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has assured GOP members he would allow for a return to a more normal course of business if he ran the Senate, including allowing for amendments on bills and letting the committee process play out.
“I think it’s critically important that we reform the Senate, and you can best reform the Senate by change in leadership,” Murkowski said.
If Republicans take over, Murkowski said Alaska also would benefit from having her serve as chair of the Senate energy committee, a post for which she would be in line.
While she has not publicly said who she is voting for in Tuesday’s primary, Murkowski said she had two good friends running, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state attorney general Dan Sullivan. She did not mention tea party favorite Joe Miller, who she beat with a general-election write-in campaign after he defeated her in the 2010 Senate primary.
During her write-in, Murkowski said the focus should not be on party labels but on what’s best for Alaska. She said she remained committed to bipartisan cooperation in Washington.