Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only Republican to vote “no” in a procedural vote that put Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh one step away from finally being confirmed, which caused former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to issue a veiled threat on Twitter.
Palin, who had been calling for Murkowski to support Kavanaugh, asking the senator to “do the right thing.” After the vote, Palin indicated that the decision to oppose Kavanaugh might cost Murkowski her seat.
“Hey @LisaMurkowski – I can see 2022 from my house…” Palin wrote on Twitter. Murkowski’s Senate term ends in 2023, and Palin’s message led some to believe Palin may challenge for the seat. The wording was a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit that made fun of Palin.
Hey @LisaMurkowski – I can see 2022 from my house…
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) October 5, 2018
Palin wasn’t the only one to question whether Murkowski’s run as Alaska senator needed to end. Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted: “I like Alaska…a lot. Maybe it’s time to run for Senate after all. @lisamurkowski has abandoned all principles of due process and fairness. Disgraceful. #ConfirmKavanaugh.”
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 5, 2018
A politically unique state
Murkowski has an interesting history with Palin. Murkowski’s father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, appointed his daughter to the Senate in 2002 — picking her over Palin.
Palin was governor of Alaska from December 2006 until July 2009, having defeated Murkowski’s father in the primary. Palin supported Republican candidate Joe Miller in the 2010 Senate race, and Miller beat Murkowksi in the primary — but Murkowski defied party leaders to win as a write-in candidate.
In 2016, Murkowski won the Republican Primary, but Miller still ran against her as a Libertarian candidate.
In short, the politics in Alaska are not like the politics in most states, and Murkowski’s relationship with the Republican Party is such that she is less likely than most to feel obligated to vote the party line.
Additionally, the issue of sexual violence is of particular sensitivity in Alaska, which has the highest rate of sexual assault in the country, and is especially high among Native women — a key coalition of support for Murkowski.
Murkowski’s against-the-grain vote on Kavanaugh, combined with her contentious history with Palin, means that in the coming years she may find herself in a somewhat familiar position — battling against the Republican establishment.
“There will be long-term resentment among Republican voters due to Sen. Murkowski’s lack of courage today,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, according to The New York Times. “Conservative women never forget.”