Empire editorial: Murkowski will need to earn victory by representing Alaska, not just GOP

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sen. Lisa Murkowski claimed her victory today in Alaska's U.S. Senate race. We're in agreement Alaskans cast the largest share of votes for her, and she has been duly elected to her second full term to America's upper legislative chamber.

What's less clear is if Joe Miller will continue his court challenges in opposition of Murkowski's win. Until recently, his campaign seemed destined to tie the election up for as long as possible in court, hoping to slide into a Senate seat by disenfranchising Alaska's voters.

However, his rhetoric has changed in the last couple of days, saying he won't pursue court challenges if the math is not in his favor. It's not, by any reasonable measure of the amount and types of votes cast. Even his own party has recognized Murkowski as the rightful winner of the campaign, and we're hopeful Miller's self-reflection will soon lead to the same result.

Alaska elected Murkowski as a senator for the entire state. Of course, many in her own party passed on its nominee in order to write in her name. But, her re-election would not have happened without the votes of independents and Democrats.

She acknowledges as much on her campaign website, stating "I am honored and humbled that so many Alaskans came together to speak with one voice, and by their own hand, cast a vote for Alaska's future. Thank you all, and rest assured I return to Washington with renewed energy and commitment to represent all my fellow Alaskans."

We hope she will remember this when she is called upon to make decisions and cast votes that may not be in the best interests of the Republican Party, but would benefit Alaska.

This will not be easy. Murkowski will serve as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and could become chairwoman of the committee if the GOP takes control of the Senate in 2012. Alaskans returned Murkowski to the Senate in part because of her spot on that panel. However, such plum assignments are generally granted by the party caucus to party loyalists, and Murkowski must have the wisdom to balance her duties to the party that got her that position with her duties to the Alaskans for whom she is expected to deliver. It will be a delicate balance at times, and we wish her the political dexterity to do it with.

As Alaskans, we've given Murkowski a new six-year window with which to legislate. Her loss in the GOP primary forced her to reach away from the far-right element that gave Miller a primary win and towards Alaska's conservative but sensible center. We encourage her to remember that spot is where she must govern from if she is to earn what the voters have given her.

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