Murkowski 'disappointed' in Palin's decision to step down

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 6, 2009 

Of all the elected officials who had something to say about Gov. Sarah Palin's departure, Sen. Lisa Murkowski's statement stood out for its short and honest brevity.

Nothing about seeing a future for Palin in the Republican Party or any of the other throwaway phrases trotted out at times like these. Just a short sentence from the state's Republican senator: "I am deeply disappointed that the Governor has decided to abandon the State and her constituents before her term has concluded," Murkowski said.

It was a bit of a surprise, since Murkowski generally offers nuanced explanations for how she arrives at decisions. Turns out, there's a reason for the brevity: Murkowski kept losing a signal on the satellite phone she was using from a remote Alaska lake.

Murkowski was with her family at a cabin on Healy Lake, to the east of Delta Junction, when she learned of the news.

"The message was conveyed to me by boat," Murkowski said Monday, in a brief interview after a Senate vote. "We have some folks on the lake that have radio contact. That's how I'm reachable in an emergency. Our friend got in his boat and came over to our cabin. And we had all gone up the slough. There was one boat, it was still hanging back, and they got the message. They went up the slough, a couple hours where we were, and said, 'there’s some news back home.' That's how I got it."

Murkowski feared at first it was news about a missile launch by North Korea or some sort of family emergency. "It was quite disconcerting, when your neighbor comes over and says, very solemnly, "I've got a message," Murkowski said.

She called in to her staff on the satellite phone — from the middle of the lake — and offered her short statement. "It's not the time to be verbose," Murkowski said.

Murkowski said that her sentiment remains the same: She thinks Palin abandoned her state and her constituents. This time, though, Murkowski offered a lengthier explanation.

"I feel very strongly about my personal commitment as an elected official to the state of Alaska, and (while) the governor’s decision may be the best for her, I guess I remain to be convinced that it’s the best decision for the state," she said. "She has a commitment to Alaska and my statement simply reflected that."

There's also plenty facing Alaska that the state's chief executive needs to attend to, Murkowski said: declining oil prices, health care, high energy costs, weatherization and the collapse of some fisheries. "There's an awful lot of issues now that demand the full attention of the governor and her administration," she said. "Alaskans expect that strong leadership."

No word yet on what reaction Murkowski's father, former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, had to the news that the woman who unseated him in the GOP primary in 2006 was stepping down early.

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