Lisa Murkowski sworn in as Alaska's sixth senator

Posted: Wednesday, January 08, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Lisa Murkowski marched down the center aisle of the Senate chamber Tuesday, with her father on one arm and Ted Stevens on the other, to take the oath of office as Alaska's sixth U.S. senator since statehood.

''I was overawed,'' she said. ''It's an incredibly humbling experience to be in this position.''

Murkowski, 45, will complete the remaining two years of her father's term before running for re-election. Frank Murkowski resigned from the Senate last month when he became governor, and his daughter resigned from the state House when he appointed her to the U.S. Senate.

Lisa Murkowski was also named deputy majority whip, who works with Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to build support for Republican legislative priorities and assists with floor operations. Murkowski is one of four freshmen lawmakers to serve in that capacity and the only woman on the 11-member deputy whip team.

She said her Senate goals are not much different from her father's: open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, pass legislation that will encourage construction of a pipeline for North Slope natural gas, and improve Alaska's transportation system.

''The agenda hasn't changed much, (but) I think you will notice a difference in style,'' she said.

She said she is likely to settle in for a long conversation about a colleague's spouse and children before getting down to business.

She also described herself as a firm believer in the value of listening.

''I am not too proud to admit that I don't know this process like I need to know this process, so I plan on listening and learning and paying a lot of attention to what's going on around me,'' she said.

She will serve on four committees: Energy and Natural Resources, Environment and Public Works, Indian Affairs and Veterans Affairs.

Moments after he walked her down to the well of the Senate, Alaska's senior senator, Ted Stevens, beckoned her to reciprocate. Stevens, who has been in office since 1968, was sworn in for his sixth full term. He also took the oath to become the Senate's president pro tempore -- the presiding officer. The largely ceremonial position is his because he is now the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, but it does put Stevens third in line for the presidency, after the vice president and the House speaker.

On the other side of the Capitol Tuesday, Alaska Congressman Don Young was sworn in for a 16th term.

Gov. Murkowski's selection of his own daughter for the Senate late last month gave rise to bitter cries of nepotism from Alaskans and others.

''No way can Frank look me in the eye and tell me that if her name hadn't been Murkowski, he still would have tagged her,'' Robert Oliver of Anchorage wrote in a recent letter to the Daily News. ''And had Lisa any class, she would've said to her Daddy, 'No, thanks -- I don't want any part of this charade.' ''

The appointment was also criticized on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, which said the choice ''smacks more of trying to establish a family dynasty than serving the taxpayers,'' and it was noted unfavorably by the New York Times.

If the barbs about how she attained office troubled Sen. Murkowski, she didn't show it Tuesday.

''I think it's only a problem if I can't do the job, and I fully intend to do the job,'' she said. ''People will bring it up, but I think (it won't be an issue) once I demonstrate that I am a very credible person in my own right and every inch the senator.''

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