Protesters challenge Murkowski on Kavanaugh vote

SCOTUS nominee’s response to sex assault allegation sparks local outrage, pressure on Alaska senator

Correction: Brett Kavanaugh is nominated to replace retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, not deceased justice Antonin Scalia. This article has been updated to reflect this.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski hasn’t yet publicly expressed how she will vote on the embattled confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

On Friday, protesters let Murkowski know that her yes means their no.

About 130 locals gathered Friday at Murkowski’s downtown office for an impromptu protest against Kavanaugh’s nomination to fulfill the vacant Supreme Court seat of retired justice Anthony Kennedy.

Newly-surfaced allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a 15-year-old high school classmate when he was 17 have delayed his nomination.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a highly-anticipated and nationally-televised hearing. Kavanaugh responded with a fiery and categorical denial of Ford’s charges against him.

Kavanaugh’s tone and the insistence from many Republican lawmakers that Ford isn’t telling the truth are part of what sparked the protest, said organizer Meredith Trainor.

Trainor told the Empire she was “disgusted” by the way Kavanaugh came across in his statements. She organized the Juneau protest a little over 12 hours prior to the noon gathering. (Trainor is the executive director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, but organized the protest as a private citizen.)

“It was really disappointing to have some one who’s nominated to be a Supreme Court justice who did not present a compelling case in his own defense,” Trainor said.

protester Paul DeSloover said Kavanaugh displayed “immaturity” at the hearing.

“Sen. Murkowski needs to think seriously about this vote for Judge Kavanaugh,” DeSloover said. “Anyone who displays the immaturity that he did in the hearing yesterday, regardless of whether you feel he’s guilty or not of the charges, does not belong on the Supreme Court.”

Many protesters said they want to see an FBI investigation into the alleged assault, something Ford has called for and Kavanaugh has implied is unnecessary.

That might happen. On Friday, committee member Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, allowed Kavanaugh’s nomination to reach the full Senate only if an FBI probe is conducted. President Donald Trump on Friday agreed to a one-week delay to look into the 30-year-old allegations.

The larger message from Juneau protesters was that, amid the #MeToo movement against sexual assault, survivors deserve to be believed, and their accusations taken seriously. Some carried signs reading “believe survivors.”

This was the third Juneau protest over Kavanaugh’s nomination and the second since allegations of sexual assault have been made public. Previous protests have focused on Kavanaugh’s views toward reproductive rights and tribal issues.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes said she came to the protest to send a message to Murkowski “as strongly as possible.” She watched Thursday’s hearing with tears in her eyes, she said.

“I thought Dr. Ford was incredibly convincing and her testimony was extremely powerful,” Gagne-Hawes said.

Many Alaska Native groups have publicly opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska “redoubled” its opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday.

Registered Alaskan voters are divided over the issue. According to a September poll from Alaska Survey Research, 46.5 percent of respondents to a statewide phone survey of 500 registered voters said they would encourage Murkwoski to vote yes on Kavanaugh’s nomination, while 43.4 percent would encourage Murkowski to vote no. About 10.2 percent said they were not sure.

protester Terri Lauterbach said she voted for Murkowski when she was last up for re-election in 2016, despite Lauterbach not being a Republican. She joined the protest last minute after driving by.

“I’m frustrated that most of the independents and Democrats in Alaska voted for Murkowski the last time around and she’s pretty much ignored us,” Lauterbach said.

A yes vote on Kavanaugh would be the “last straw,” Lauterbach said, in her support for the thrice-elected senator. Murkowski will next be up for re-election in 2022.

“She should lose their vote if she says yes on this. … I hope we all have very long memories,” Lauterbach said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


Protestors rallied Friday at the Juneau office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who will soon vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The group of about 130 urged Murkowski to vote against the nomination of Kavenaugh, who is accused of sexual assault. (Kevin Gullufsen | Juneau Empire)

Protestors rallied Friday at the Juneau office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who will soon vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The group of about 130 urged Murkowski to vote against the nomination of Kavenaugh, who is accused of sexual assault. (Kevin Gullufsen | Juneau Empire)

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