Will she or won’t she? That’s the question Alaskans — and Republicans across the country — are now asking about Sen. Lisa Murkowski. After losing the Republican primary to tea-party candidate Joe Miller in late August and giving every sign that she would contest the will of the voters in court, Murkowski eventually conceded the Republican nomination — but didn’t rule out running on a different ticket. Now she’s considering running as a Libertarian (if the party can stomach a nominee so ideologically incompatible with its program) or as a write-in candidate. With more than $1 million left in her campaign fund, Murkowski certainly has the financial resources to challenge Joe Miller’s candidacy.
She shouldn’t. Murkowski lost the primary, fair and square. And she ought not to force a three-way election that could deliver the Senate seat to Democrat Scott McAdams.
Murkowski, whose lifetime rating of 70 from the American Conservative Union marks her as the fourth most liberal Republican in the Senate, has flirted with or voted directly for several proposals tea partiers adamantly oppose. In 2007, she co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill. In March, she told a TV reporter that repealing Obamacare was “not the answer,” although she did later vote to repeal it. And in an election in which a parental-notification measure was drawing voters to the polls, her pro-abortion stances stood in dramatic contrast to Miller’s pro-life positions.
In other words, Republican voters examined her record and opted for a different candidate. The gracious response would be to acknowledge the voters’ decision and quietly serve out the rest of her term, as Utah senator Bob Bennett is doing.
We’re not against all independent runs. We supported Joe Lieberman’s decision to run as an independent. Lieberman’s principled and consistent support for the Iraq War cost him the Democratic primary. But it was the right stand to take, and his refusal to be cowed by the anti-war activists in his party was laudable.
But in Murkowski’s case, there is no similar adherence to a worthwhile principle. Instead, the fact that she is willing even to consider running as a Libertarian — a party often to the economic right of the GOP — highlights that for her, this race isn’t about fighting for cherished values, but rather is about refusing to accept the primary’s results.
Murkowski has proclaimed that she’s “not a quitter.” That’s true enough: She didn’t quit her Senate position — she was fired. Now is the time for her to accept this, begin considering what task she should next embark on, and, if she is able to muster the generosity of spirit necessary to do so, endorse Joe Miller.