- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The conservative activists at Heritage Action for America think they can persuade Sen. Lisa Murkowski to vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation and have mounted an advocacy campaign to win her vote.

While some Republicans have already counted the Alaska Republican as a “no” vote, conservative residents of the state said they think they can bring Ms. Murkowski into their corner. Democrats wanting to stop Judge Barrett’s confirmation would almost certainly need Ms. Murkowski alongside three of her fellow Republicans to stop the nomination process next week.

Heritage Action executive director Jessica Anderson said her team’s strategy to win over Alaska’s senators included two-prongs: leveraging conservative activists in the state and Alaskan legislators. Two letters, one from 20 Alaska state legislators and another from 237 Alaskan activists, were delivered to Ms. Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan, also a Republican, this week.

“The encouragement that we want to provide is she is not alone,” Ms. Anderson said.

Standing alone is not abnormal for Ms. Murkowski, who was the only GOP senator opposed to then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in his 2018 confirmation vote. Rather than vote “no,” she voted “present” so that the nomination could advance without the support of Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, who was absent so he could attend his daughter’s wedding.

On Tuesday, Ms. Murkowski reiterated to reporters that she would meet with Judge Barrett. She vowed in September to meet with President Trump’s Supreme Court pick but made clear she did not support considering a nominee for the high court vacancy so close to the election.

Now that the vote is set to arrive within two weeks of Election Day, Alaska legislators hope Ms. Murkowski will keep an open mind before deciding what to do. In their letter to Alaska’s senators, the Alaskan lawmakers pointed out moments during Judge Barrett’s Senate nomination hearings that led them to believe she would be an independent justice.

“There can be no question, Judge Barrett would be resolutely independent, her own person, guided only by the Constitution,” the Alaska lawmakers wrote in the letter. “In time, she would be viewed as a titan on the bench and an inspiration to so many across the nation. We strongly believe Judge Barrett should be confirmed to the Supreme Court before Election Day, and we are calling on you to support her confirmation.”

Alaska state Sen. Mia Costello said she and her fellow lawmakers that wrote the letter know that both Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Sullivan will read the letter carefully.

“In Alaska, we know our U.S. senators personally and there’s hardly a person who hasn’t met with Senator Murkowski, or talked with her, or been at an event. Same with Senator Sullivan,” Ms. Costello said. “So to us, we’re one big family and we are very hopeful and confident that she will listen to us and understand that it’s important that the Alaska legislature makes it plain to our senators what we would like to see in this nominee — that she’s a successful nominee to the Supreme Court.”

Heritage Action approached the Alaska lawmakers about the letters delivered this week, and Ms. Costello said she had not worked with the group in a similar fashion previously. The 237 conservative activists’ letter stresses Judge Barrett’s originalist interpretation of the Constitution and the judge’s resume as evidence that she is well-qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

When asked why Heritage Action was focusing on Ms. Murkowski, a potential Republican swing vote, instead of a Democrat in a tough reelection fight such as Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Ms. Anderson said Heritage Action was mindful of how other conservative groups were allocating their time and resources.

Ms. Anderson pointed to Americans for Prosperity vice president of legal and judicial strategy Casey Mattox, a former clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court, as helping to lead the conservative movement’s efforts in Alabama to encourage Mr. Jones to vote in favor of Judge Barrett.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination for Thursday and a vote in the full Senate is expected to come early next week.

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