Family Ties Spice Up Alaska Race

While the rest of the U.S. focuses on the Democrats’ East Coast ticket versus the Republicans’ Texas twosome, a smaller but pivotal battle is being fought in the nation’s northernmost state. It’s a feud about family, and it’s roiling the contest for Alaska’s sole Senate seat, but so far, the issue has not cropped up in ads.

There’s more at stake, however, than just the seat. If Republican appointee Lisa Murkowski loses, Democrats could win control of the Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority. Murkowski, appointed in 2002 by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, when he retired from the Senate, is trailing Democrat Tony Knowles (an ex-Alaska governor)—a July 6 poll put him 3 points ahead.

Republicans are concerned about family ties in the state, which has not had a Democratic senator since Jimmy Carter was president. “The nepotism game generally doesn’t play very well,” said one GOP media strategist. “She’s in trouble.”

The Murkowski camp has spent $450,000 in paid media, while Knowles has spent $225,000. But neither has raised the family issue in the ads. Knowles rep Matt McKenna declined to comment about the subject, except to say Knowles would not make it an issue. Murkowski’s camp did not return calls.

Knowles’ most recent ad, which broke July 2, focuses on medicine costs and importing safe drugs from Canada. A GOP Senatorial Committee ad points to Democratic opposition to the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Knowles “wouldn’t know a caribou if it dropped in for a bowl of Boston clam chowder,” the ad says.