By J. Taylor Rushing - 06/22/09 02:12 PM EDT
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is seeking the vice chairmanship of the Senate Republican Conference, as a GOP leadership shuffle continues in the wake of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) admission of an extramarital affair.
Murkowski began making calls to fellow GOP senators last week about her intent to replace Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) in the position. Thune last week told The Hill he is seeking the position of GOP Policy chairman, which Ensign has resigned. Murkowski also sent around a letter within the Republican Conference on Friday, said spokesman Michael Brumas.
Republicans will vote on the leadership positions this week. The conference vice chairmanship is considered the No. 5 position among Senate Republicans.
Brumas said Murkowski also intends to retain her ranking-member position on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a pivotal position given the importance of Alaska’s oil and gas industry.
The 52-year-old daughter of former Alaska Gov. and U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski was appointed to fulfill her father’s Senate seat in 2002 and subsequently won her first full term in 2004. She is the only woman ever elected to Congress by Alaskan voters.
GOP Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) was also interested in the vice chairmanship, but won’t challenge Murkowski for the position, according to Barrasso spokesman Gregory Keeley.
“Sen. Barrasso has a great deal of respect for Sen. Murkowski and believes she would be a strong vice chair,” Keeley said. “I understand that he won’t challenge [her] for the vice chair position if she runs.”
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are also considering running for the vice chairmanship, according to Senate Republican sources.