Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Lisa Murkowski

The Alaska Republican doesn't set her watches

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski hopes to celebrate her next birthday by hiking Machu Picchu. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In this week’s Take Five, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski talks about taking the stairs, traveling home to Alaska and arctic squirrels.  

Q : How regularly are you able to ski?  

A : I wish that I could tell you that I have a season ski pass but I have had to give that up since I’ve been in the Senate. But that is definitely the winter sport — in the summer, it’s hiking and biking. I have a big birthday coming. My last big birthday, we hiked the Chilkoot Trail, which is a three-day hike from Alaska into Canada. And now, I’ve decided I want to do Machu Picchu [in Peru] and I mentioned it to my husband, who immediately changed the subject. And I thought, "I have nine months to work on him here."  

Q : We never see you on the elevators in Hart. Why is that?  

A : I walk the steps. It’s just my own, personal exercise routine because the hours are so crazy here. I’m not a gym rat. I’ve got a gym membership but my schedule is so crazy I just can’t keep it regular. And, it’s a great way if you’re trying to shake reporters.  

Q : Were you inspired to run for office when your father launched his 1980 Senate campaign?  

A : No, absolutely not. I was back here at Georgetown and graduated in May; he had announced the end of March. Rather than committing to a job, I committed to help my dad, as did all six of us kids. But never in my wildest dreams did I look at that and say, yeah, that’s something that I want to do. I had been an intern for Sen. [Ted] Stevens , so I had a little exposure to what went on on Capitol Hill. But, I was clearly of the mind that this was for people that had resumes and experience that was far beyond anything that I would ever have at that time.  

Murkowski says she finds the "in-your-face" honesty of her fellow Alaskans refreshing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Murkowski says she finds the "in-your-face" honesty of her fellow Alaskans refreshing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Q : How do you cope with the long trip home?  

A : The four-hour time difference just kind of weighs you down to the point where you’re not really quite sure what it’s like to be normal anymore. It’s so much easier in Alaska because you can be tired after being on an airplane for 12 hours and you can get off and the air is clear, it’s usually cooler, people are just kind of in-your-face honest. And it’s refreshing. You come back here, particularly in the summer, it’s so hard. I have nice watches. I don’t set them. I look at my cell phone to see what time it is where I am and then you behave accordingly. If people are eating, it must be time to eat.  

Q : Out of all the interesting wildlife in Alaska, which animal is your favorite?  

A : It’s these arctic squirrels. First of all, I hate squirrels. But these arctic squirrels hibernate, and for about nine months out of the year, their heart beats three times a minute. That’s it. They go into this dormancy and it’s something that … a lot of scientists [are trying] to figure out. If we can figure out how these squirrels adapt to this colder environment, maybe we can apply this to humans.

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