Alaskans press Murkowski on Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh met with Senator Lisa Murkowski (C-SPAN screen capture)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski met Thursday with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They smiled for the cameras, but Murkowski is keeping her opinion of the nominee under wraps.

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She is considered one of the few Republicans who could vote against confirming Kavanaugh, and his opponents are pinning their hopes on her.

Some 30 Alaskans flew to the nation’s capital mid-week to urge Murkowski to vote no. Among them was Leighan Gonzales, a student at UAA.

“I made a very personal appeal and I asked her to vote no on his nomination because I’m honestly concerned and very scared of this person being on the Supreme Court,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales was born with a heart condition that required surgery. She said Kavanaugh is hostile to a key promise of the Affordable Care Act: that people with pre-existing conditions won’t be denied insurance coverage. Whether Kavanaugh really is opposed to the Affordable Care Act is a matter of dispute. But Gonzales said Murkowski seemed receptive to her message on Thursday.

“I brought a picture, a baby picture post-surgery, with this giant scar on my tiny baby chest,” Gonzales said. “She was really moved by that, and I felt very optimistic.”

Gonzales says her way was paid by Protect Our Care, a health care advocacy group.

Anchorage retiree Joni Bruner made the trip east, too. She was a last-minute addition to her contingent. Bruner was not sure exactly who bought her ticket. She thought it was Center for Popular Democracy.

Bruner told Murkowski the new justice should be a middle-of-the-road centrist.

“If we were to confirm an extreme right person, it would further divide our country,” Bruner said later. “And we really want to stay together.”

Kavanaugh has been making the rounds of Senate offices for weeks, and a photo-op is a routine prelude to each meeting.

Murkowski’s real meeting with Kavanaugh was behind closed doors. Nothing of substance was discussed in their minute in front of the cameras. But Murkowski did take the opportunity to point out the giant salmon trophy mounted on her wall.

“So that’s Walter,” Murkowski said, as shutters clicked. “Sixty-three pounds, Kenai River.”

Murkowski’s office later issued a statement saying their discussion covered a range of topics, including health care, reproductive rights, privacy, legal precedence and laws specific to Alaska. The statement provided no insight into which way she’s leaning.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for after Labor Day.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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