Alaska Native vote called crucial in Senate race

Alaska Native voters will play a key role in determining the outcome of the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R) and challenger Tony Knowles (D).

Alaska Natives made up 16 percent of the population. Their large numbers have the power to sway a close election, like the one between Murkowski, daughter of current Gov. Frank Murkowski, and Knowles, a former governor.

Carl E. Shepro, associate professor of political science at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, said the Native vote will most benefit Knowles. "His gubernatorial campaign relied heavily on the native Alaska vote," Shepro told The New York Times. "He probably got more than 90 percent in the villages."

Knowles is most celebrated for dropping the state's lawsuit against Native subsistence rights. He won praise from the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest inter-tribal organization in the state.

Murkowski has become very familiar to Alaska Native leaders through her position on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. She has advocated for more funding for villages and tribal programs in Alaska but some say she is overshadowed by her father, who has angered tribal leaders with his question to limit tribal authority.

Get the Story:
In Solidly Republican Alaska, a Charged Senate Race May Signal a Thaw (The New York Times 10/21)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski - http://murkowski.senate.gov
Lisa Murkowski for Senate - http://www.lisamurkowski.com
Tony Knowles - http://www.tonyknowles.com

Related Stories:
Democrats protest Murkowski land swap legislation (09/17)
Alaska wants to reduce tribal powers in child welfare (09/09)
Murkowski finds it difficult to escape father's shadow (08/10)
Alaska Natives press unity on sovereignty (10/25)
Alaska to pay legal fees in subsistence case (10/09)
Alaska won't appeal Native rights case (8/28)
Alaska Native subsistence case upheld (5/8)