Republicans searching to fill Murkowski's vacancy

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had barely taken office when the search to fill the void in the state House began Friday.

The 45-year-old Anchorage lawmaker was named by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, to assume the seat he has held for 22 years.

Lisa Murkowski had been readying herself to return to Juneau after winning a third term in office and being picked by House Republicans as Majority leader.

''We're going to have to revisit the whole issue again,'' said House Speaker-elect Pete Kott, R-Eagle River. ''There are probably three or four people interested in it.''

Kott said the 27-member Republican majority will not pick a new leader until a replacement has been named for Murkowski's House District 18.

Some possible candidates for majority leader include Reps. John Coghill, R-North Pole; Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks; Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage; and Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said Kott.

McGuire said she is interested in the post. The other lawmakers could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Under state law and GOP rules, the District 18 Republican Committee will forward three names to Gov. Murkowski. The governor will then appoint a successor to his daughter's two-year term within 30 days.

The governor is not limited to the names on the list, said Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, but customarily chooses from it.

Ruedrich said he has already fielded phone calls on behalf of Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Kendall and Nancy Dahlstrom.

Dahlstrom, of Eagle River, narrowly lost to Murkowski in the August Republican Primary. Kott described Dahlstrom as a top contender for the unexpired term. Dahlstrom could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Other names mentioned by Kott included retiring House Finance co-chairman Eldon Mulder, a Republican from Muldoon who stepped down rather than run against Murkowski in the primary.

Mulder also could not be reached for comment. A staff aide said Mulder was traveling Friday.

The state Republican Party will advertise the vacancy in the newspaper to invite Republicans in House District 18 to step forward. The seven-member district committee will meet within two weeks, Ruedrich said.

House District 18 includes Birchwood, Chugiak, Eagle River, Elmendorf, Fort Richardson, Government Hill and Muldoon.

The governor's state House appointment must be confirmed by a majority of the House Republicans, Ruedrich said.

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