U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion) U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Voices of the Peninsula: Lisa Murkowski represents everyday Alaskans

While working for Lisa, I witnessed her considerable command of the issues

  • By Jason Huffnagle
  • Thursday, November 3, 2022 10:18pm
  • Opinion

By Jason Huffnagle

‘Senator Murkowski?” This question — asked on a street corner near the Library of Congress — marks the start of my improbable career in government service. It is also how I learned Lisa Murkowski tirelessly works to represent ordinary Alaskans in Washington, DC.

Twelve years ago this fall, I moved to D.C. to live closer to my then-girlfriend and now-wife. A newly minted college grad, I trusted — like only an early twenty-something can — that my savings and luck would hold until I found a job, hopefully, at my coveted role working at a technology startup. However, the universe determined otherwise, with a chance run-in with Lisa Murkowski, one that launched my almost six-year career as a Senate staffer.

Much of our conversation that day remains a blur. I do, however, remember sharing with her — more like blathering, I admit — how I grew up in Homer, that I had just moved to Washington and was looking for a job, and how I had followed along with her write-in campaign (only since learning of it the week before). Years later, I discovered that Lisa thought that I had literally followed her campaign to D.C. And, where others could have easily regarded such behavior as immature and not their responsibility, she offered me a job. I started answering phones and giving tours of the Capitol building and got a chance at what remains one of the greatest privileges of my life: serving my fellow Alaskans in Washington.

While working for Lisa, I witnessed her considerable command of the issues. I saw firsthand how her independence earned the respect — sometimes frustration — of her Republican colleagues. It was, however, her habit of listening that most impacted me. I remember her listening to and fighting for the people of King Cove for a life-saving road — a fight she steadfastly wages against the Biden Administration. I also recall her asking junior staff for their views on the federal legalization of marijuana (and received more diverse perspectives than you might think). More recently, Alaskans have seen how Lisa bore witness to the impacts of Typhoon Merbok in Western Alaska and how Lisa secured a 100% waiver of the State’s cost share for federal assistance — a key win in helping remote communities recover and rebuild.

While working for Lisa, I saw her make countless decisions based on one simple but crucial question, “Will this help Alaskans?” Witnessing this prevents me from buying the cliche populist lines that other Senate candidates use to attack Lisa. They claim she is disconnected, yet they fail to attend important fisheries debates to go to a fundraiser out of state.

Lisa tirelessly serves Alaskans. Considering our divisive political moment, Lisa has the kind of leadership we need in the U.S. Senate, a listening leader that delivers despite the partisan rancor — putting people before party. She is someone who gladly listens to the people she represents, even a random young Alaskan she’s just met on the sidewalk.

Jason Huffnagle grew up in Homer, Alaska. He worked for Sen. Lisa Murkowski for nearly six years, between 2010 and 2017. He now lives and works in Washington, D.C., for a private software company. He believes you can take the boy out of Alaska but not Alaska out of the boy.

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