JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the presidential race is creating uncertainty for down-ballot races like hers that she hasn’t experienced before.
The Alaska Republican said she’s hearing from people fed up with the national race and is encouraging them to get out to vote anyway.
Both major party presidential candidates have been polarizing. And Murkowski said it will be important to have a Congress that can come together to work on issues, govern and act as a check and balance on the executive branch.
Murkowski lost her 2010 primary to Joe Miller but won an improbable general election write-in campaign to retain her seat. This year is different than any of her past races, though, because of the uncertainty injected by the presidential race, she said.
“My attention has not been on the presidential race. It is what it is,” she told reporters Monday evening at her Juneau campaign office. “In my view, it’s a race to the bottom right now.”
She said she’s focused, instead, on her campaign, traveling the state and meeting with Alaskans.
She has cast herself as a moderate, pragmatic voice and touted her seniority. Her critics, meanwhile, have sought to paint her as part of the problem in an ineffectual Congress.
Murkowski faces three main challengers in her race: Miller, who is running as a Libertarian; Democrat Ray Metcalfe and independent Margaret Stock.
Murkowski said she’s not sure how she’ll vote for president. She said she can support neither Democrat Hillary Clinton nor her party’s nominee, Donald Trump, particularly after a 2005 video surfaced earlier this month in which Trump made lewd comments about women. That video prompted her and Alaska’s junior senator, Republican Dan Sullivan, to call on Trump to get out of the race.
Miller has said he’s supporting Trump over the Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson, and Metcalfe said he will support Clinton, though unenthusiastically. Stock hasn’t said how she’ll vote but has spoken against Trump.
Murkowski said she had long had “very serious reservations” about Trump but said she gave him a chance to convince her that he’d earned her vote.
But she said he kept moving in the wrong direction and in the video “bragged about, basically, sexual exploitation of women.”
Murkowski said she does not want the leader of the country “setting an example that is not one that holds the values that I think that we should have as a nation.”
Karl Vandor, a retired project manager who attended Monday’s meet-and-greet at her campaign office, said Murkowski’s decision to speak out against Trump bothered him “because there’s only two choices. The other choice is very bad.”
Vandor, a Republican, is backing Trump, who he sees as pro-development and as someone who can get things done.
But he said he’s also supporting Murkowski, calling her down to earth and up on the issues.
Bob Janes of Juneau said he’s an independent and was glad that Murkowski spoke out against Trump — “finally.” Despite how ugly the presidential race has gotten, he said he’s excited to vote.
“I believe that sensible people have an obligation to get out and keep our country functioning in a sensible way,” he said.