Reporter, Tash Kimmell interviews U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski (Katherine Rose/KCAW)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski stopped in Sitka Friday while on the campaign trail to keep her seat in the US Senate. Originally from Ketchikan, the republican has represented the state for nearly 20 years on the senate floor, and has emerged as one of the most important swing votes in government. Murkowski sat down with KCAW’s Tash Kimmell to discuss her thoughts on issues ranging from climate change, to winning the millennial vote. 

In the days leading up to her visit to Sitka, Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, keeping in line with the majority of her Republican colleagues in the senate. The bill, which passed on August 7th, is being hailed by some as a monumental step forward for climate action and clean energy investment. Murkowski, however, labeled it a partisan reconciliation measure that will ultimately increase taxes, spending and regulation. The senator defended her position, stressing a need for bipartisanship in the fight against climate change.

“If we do not do this on a bipartisan basis, it will not last. It will not last, and you will therefore not get the investment that you need to build out the energy infrastructure. It’s expensive, whether you’re putting in wind turbines, or solar farms, or a natural gas pipeline. None of this, none of this is cheap, and investors are looking for something that there’s going to be a return on their investment. That’s why they’re investors. That’s not a bad thing. But if there’s no certainty as to government policies, if they think it’s going to switch three years from now, when you got a new administration, they’re not putting the money up front. And so, we’ve got to give the most important thing that we can give to having lasting energy policy, lasting solutions for climate, is certainty from policy. And the only way you get certainty is when it comes through bipartisan approach.”

While considered a swing vote in the senate, one issue Murkowski insists she’s never wavered on is a woman’s right to choose. But in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, she helped block the Women’s Health Protection Act, a Democratic bill which aimed to codify protections established by Roe v. Wade. Instead, Murkowski offered her own legislation, the Reproductive Choice Act, which she suggests is better suited in its protections of reproductive rights. 

“Our legislation not only codifies Roe versus Wade, and Casey, but it also codifies Griswold, with regards to access to contraception, and not only for married couples, as Griswold does, but but codifies the other cases that make sure that contraception is available for all who would seek to use it. We’ve introduced this bill on a bipartisan basis, to Republicans, to Democrats. It has been filed, it has been called into question, because the debate is, ‘Well, how are you going to pass it?’ And the reality is that in order to advance it, we need more support. We need more support on the Republican side. And I acknowledge that.”

Although abortion is currently protected in the 49th state, Murkowski acknowledges that discussion of a consituional convention may threaten those protections. 

 “Alaska can’t put in place a trigger law that would ban abortion. But we are only protected so long as that constitution is as it is, and we know that on the ballot in November, will be an opportunity for Alaskans to weigh in and say whether or not they want to proceed with a constitutional convention. This is before us every 10 years, and this is the tenth year. So that is that is something that, quite honestly, I’m concerned about, that we could in fact lose that protection.”

The third-generation Alaskan has been in the Senate for 20 years, but she insists that it’s exactly that experience that will best serve the state’s youngest voters, millennials and Gen-Z. 

“It’s about not only your vision for the state of Alaska, but your ability to achieve that vision on behalf of the people of this state, and the value that you can bring. So if you are a young Alaskan, who’s just come to this state, and you want to stay here, you want to know, is there housing that is affordable? Will there be available childcare, if I decide that I should have children? What are my economic opportunities? Staying in a community where costs are high, transportation costs are high coming in and out? Can I afford to live here at a time when we’re seeing inflationary pressures that are as they are? I take it very personally, it’s almost one on one, what is it that you need to stay in a community that you care about? And I take that, personally, to try to deliver those results that will make a community like Sitka, a better place to live and work and raise a family.”

Alaska’s primary election and special U.S House election will be held on Tuesday August 16th. Polls will be open in Sitka  7 am to 8 pm at Harrigan Centennial Hall.