Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) said Friday she did not vote for former President Trump in November’s election but pledged she would stay in the Senate Republican Conference, once again ruling out the possibility of caucusing with Senate Democrats.
Murkowski called for her fellow Republicans to rethink and rebuild what their party is about, urging it to be the more inclusive party it was under former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Murkowski noted that she has previously said “if the Republican Party continues to be the party of Trump, I’m not quite sure where I fit.”
She acknowledged, “I can be very discouraged at times by things that go on in my own caucus, in my own party.
“I think each member feels that,” she added. “But I have absolutely no desire to move over to the Democrat side of the aisle.”
Murkowski revealed Friday that she did not vote for Trump but instead wrote in another person to be elected president. She declined to reveal who that was.
“He didn’t win,” she quipped.
“People have asked and it’s like, you know what, it’s not really relevant who I voted for,” she added.
She told Alaska public radio earlier this month that she “absolutely, unequivocally” would “not” consider a party switch.
Her earlier comments, however, raised questions whether she might leave the Republican Party to become an independent.
Murkowski on Friday signaled that she still thinks the Republican Party best reflects her views, although she would like to see it return to what it was under Reagan and the Bushes.
She said she feels most “at home” in a Republican Party that embodies the characteristics of “big-tent Republicans.”
“I would like us to be that party that is inclusive of young people and minorities and LGBTQ and all people everywhere regardless of demographic or background,” she said. “I think the Republican Party has so much to offer if we can just get away from the personalities that have shaped it into a more narrowly defined view.”
Murkowski said she was urged to consider joining the Libertarian Party in 2010 after she lost her Republican primary race against Joe Miller.
“I said but I’m not a Libertarian,” she said. “I actually did have a conversation with the head of the Libertarian Party. And I said, ‘Thank you but no thank you.’ I don’t fly a flag of convenience. If it’s not who I am, it’s not who I am.”
Despite being abandoned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Murkowski won the general election that year as a write-in candidate.
On Friday, she pushed back against pundits and conservative critics who say she doesn’t fit in the modern Republican Party, which has become dominated by Trump’s enthusiastic popularity among many base GOP voters.
“Some of the Republicans will say, ‘Well, you’re not really one of us,’ ” she noted. “Let’s define what is the Republican Party nowadays?
“Where is the Republican Party? Who really exemplifies the heart of the party right now?” she asked. “I think in many ways we are a party that is really struggling to identify.”
“We have some that have solidly identified with Trump and probably will continue to identify for years going forward but you have a lot of other people that were not really sold on Trump but they absolutely embraced the policies,” she added.
Murkowski said President Biden’s new executive actions, including a temporary moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are giving her “heartburn.”
“We’re getting smashed right now with regard to suspension of permits,” she said. “Supposedly it’s just a temporary suspension. Well if you suspend permits now — we only have a season that’s two months long, three months long in terms of exploration.”
She said she is hearing a lot of Alaskans that “are like, ‘Man, we might not have liked Trump but we sure appreciated that he understood the value of not only the resource but the jobs that come with it.’ ”
As the party tries to figure out what it’s about now that Trump is out of office, Murkowski said, “I don’t view myself as the person who is going to carry the Republican flag and say ‘everybody line up with me, this is the vision that I have and let’s kind of reclaim the party.’ ”
“I’m going to continue to be the same person that I always have been, which is an individual that has views that many would say are moderate when it comes to issues of social matters,” she said, adding that she holds more mainstream conservative views on “fiscal, job-related” policy questions.
Broadly speaking, Murkowski favors freedom “from government regulations for the fullest extent possible.”
“I see that I continue in the role that I have, which is one that is not afraid to be in the middle, even if there are not a lot of people there with me,” she said.