OPINION: Choosing a U.S. senator
Anchorage Daily News–Tim Benintendi is an Anchorage retiree, Vietnam veteran and former legislative aide.
These editorial pages continue with healthy observations and opinions of our congressional delegation, pro and con, from a variety of contributors. That’s a good thing, as is a contested U.S. Senate seat. In the primary just ahead of us, it behooves voters to make the effort to objectively sift through the rhetoric, to evaluate Alaska’s future needs, to assess a candidate’s actual productivity, and to determine the best candidate for the job for the next six years.
I believe Sen. Lisa Murkowski is by far the most qualified candidate among our choices, by far. Her 20-year Senate seniority is a significant quality which we cannot do without. Remember what Sen. Ted Stevens’ seniority meant to us? She engages in the actual work of the Senate; actual policy and budget development. She does not make her living off the rhetorical blather many politicians serve up. Lisa conducts herself with reasoned study, a respectful demeanor, understanding, and even a degree of grace. There aren’t many political leaders around these days who operate that way.
Unlike nearly every other state, Alaska has only one seat in the U.S. House, held for 48 years by the late Congressman Don Young. His seniority in that one lone seat is now gone. Now, Alaska’s strongest position in Washington, D.C., is the seniority held by Sen. Murkowski.
Kelly Tshibaka, on the other hand, has inextricably aligned herself with Donald Trump and his supporters, including pseudo-intellectuals like Steve Bannon. She is hitched to a group that seeks to rule, not govern. She has allowed a disgraced former president, one who has cost this nation hundreds of millions of dollars in sideshow political antics, behaviors and wasted legal costs, too much say in Alaska’s affairs. There would be no independence of thought or action for Ms. Tshibaka, should she be elected.
Over the past year, Ms. Tshibaka has had several opinion pieces printed in these pages, few of which have articulated any sort of positions on international matters, the federal budget, various departmental policies, nor specific priorities for the economy of Alaska. Her opinion articles have mostly been negative attacks on Sen. Murkowski for daring to work across the aisle to achieve benefits for Alaska. Remember what Sen. Ted Stevens’ achievements, working with Democrat Sen. Daniel Inouye and others, meant to us?
Quitting Washington, D.C., Ms. Tshibaka took a patronage job as Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Mike Dunleavy, but held the job for less than two years. She enjoyed a seemingly unlimited amount of state funding for moving expenses. Upon her return to Alaska, a job was created for her husband in the Department of Education and Early Development, which he held for less than two years before moving on to a patronage job with Mayor Dave Bronson. Such opportunistic actions are commonly associated with the political swamp that everyone, especially Republicans, find offensive. Trying to label Sen. Murkowski as a “D.C. insider,” Ms. Tshibaka now wants to again become a D.C. insider herself. If elected, Ms. Tshibaka’s office would become a “Little Shop of Horrors” to the needs of average Alaskans, especially the working poor.
Disciplining of Sen. Murkowski by the Central Committee of the Alaska Republican Party was so narrowly focused as to be irrelevant in the real world of Congress and among the diverse citizenry of Alaska. Their extreme sense of party control does not serve us at all.
Lisa Murkowski is supported by a wide range of Alaskans, including her colleague Sen. Dan Sullivan. She is supported less because of personality issues, than because of her delivery of policy and budgetary necessities for local governments, interest groups of citizens, and infrastructure needs. I believe in her place, Sen. Ted Stevens would also have worked directly with President Joe Biden on the infrastructure bill which passed. That actual engagement in process is what delivers for Alaska, not rhetorical political theater.
Sen. Murkowski has not always voted the way I would have liked, but I understand and accept it when she doesn’t. None of us, not constituent, not party, not office holder gets 100% of their desires. Compromise and productivity are the measures of success. This election cycle, don’t vote the shallow image-bashing. Look to the seniority, experience and accomplishments of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The choice is clear.
Tim Benintendi is an Anchorage retiree, Vietnam veteran and former legislative aide.