Lobbyists Quick to Shift From Murkowski to Miller

Posted September 10, 2010 at 5:00pm

Washington lobbyists aren’t waiting for Sen. Lisa Murkowski to decide whether she’ll pursue re-election as a write-in candidate or a Libertarian in the wake of her defeat in Alaska’s Republican primary, and this week they began preparing to support GOP nominee Joe Miller.

It is rare for K Street to cross an incumbent Senator in favor of a challenger, but lobbyists expect that even in victory, Murkowski would be stripped of her ranking member (or chairwoman) status on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Doing so would require a vote of the Republicans who serve on the committee, according to Conference rules. Senate Republican leaders have already signaled that she would lose her position Conference vice chairwoman.

One Republican lobbyist referred to Murkowski affectionately but still plans to back Miller in the general election should Murkowski remain in the race.

“I love Lisa, but I will likely support our nominee,” the lobbyist said. “It’s a bad precedent to do otherwise. We cannot have a D.C. intellectual Republican gang that encourages these Crist-style challenges to our primary voters’ decisions.”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for Senate as an Independent, bolted the GOP earlier this year when it became apparent he was unlikely to win the Republican primary.

Meanwhile, Miller is expected in Washington, D.C., at the end of September for four days of fundraisers and meet-and-greets with Senators, lobbyists and other political players. Miller has hired Mike Gula to serve as his political action committee fundraiser. A steering committee of lobbyists is likely to be assembled once Miller gets to town and the community gets to know him.

Murkowski has yet to announce her plans following her primary defeat last month.

The Senator’s campaign has confirmed in news reports that she is considering both a write-in candidacy and running on the Libertarian ticket — the only two options she has to remain in the race. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, creating the possibility of an awkward reunion between Murkowski and the rest of the leadership team.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has offered Miller his full support, as have Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas). The rest of the GOP leadership team, and the bulk of the Conference, are expected to follow suit. Alaska is still seen as a relatively easy hold for the Republicans, barring a third-party run by Murkowski.

Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams is running for the Democrats in Alaska.