Aug. 27, 2015
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Although Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has replaced South Dakota Sen. John Thune as GOP Conference vice chair, she did not retain his K Street outreach portfolio.

Thune Keeping K Street

Murkowski to Focus Outreach On Grass Roots

Despite taking on a larger role in crafting the GOP’s legislative and policy strategy, recently installed Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) is keeping the bulk of his K Street outreach portfolio.

Thune, who was assigned in January with stepping up the GOP’s outreach to K Street, is handing off a small portion of his liaison responsibilities to his successor in the Conference’s No. 2 job, Vice Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Thune will continue to take the lead for Senate Republicans on meeting with business lobbyists, trade groups and conservative issue-advocacy organizations, according to his spokesman, Kyle Downey.

That’s in addition to the influential Policy Committee chairmanship, which involves producing policy papers and providing in-house cable television coverage of Senate floor action.

Murkowski will focus on outreach to female, minority and grass-roots organizations in order to open up a dialogue on issues such as education, health care and jobs.

“Sen. Murkowski believes that the Republican Party can do better to reach out to these groups,” Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas said.

Thune and Murkowski were promoted late last month to chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference, respectively, following Sen. John Ensign’s (Nev.) resignation as policy chairman after he admitted to having an affair with a former campaign staffer.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Thune and Murkowski had been in discussions since then over how to proceed with K Street outreach, making the final decision on how to divide the responsibilities last week, according to Downey.

“This compliments each of their strengths,” said Republican lobbyist Eric Ueland, a former chief of staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who is now at the Duberstein Group.

Both Thune and Murkowski have long been seen as headed for GOP leadership positions. Thune has been viewed as a rising star since his historic defeat of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in the 2004 election.

Murkowski, who was appointed to the Senate in 2002, has been attending leadership meetings as a counselor to McConnell. She has also had a quick rise in the Senate.

The Conference chairman has traditionally been responsible for interacting with downtown, but when Thune became vice chairman, he and Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), along with McConnell, decided to give many of those K Street outreach duties to the Conference vice chairman.

Alexander has thus been in charge of message strategy, while Thune as vice chairman had handled the party’s outreach efforts.

Thune spokesman Downey said the decision to divvy up K Street outreach will help the GOP have further reach.

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