Alaskans take flight in last-minute push to persuade Murkowski to vote no on Kavanaugh

Sarra Khlifi joined a protest at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. Photo by Liz Ruskin.

Sarra Khlifi of Anchorage said she, along with every sexual assault survivor she knows, has churned with emotion since Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape and he angrily denied it.

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“We had this unspoken understanding of, like, ‘this week has been terrible,'” Khlifi said. “So when the opportunity came up to do something about it and come talk to Sen. Murkowski, I didn’t hesitate.”

Khlifi heard the American Civil Liberties Union was paying to fly more than 100 Alaska women to D.C. Barely a day after getting the OK, she boarded a red-eye and was in Washington by morning.

It was hot and humid. Khlifi and other Alaskans from her flight sweltered on a street near their hotel. They obviously weren’t in Anchorage anymore.

“They’re wearing suits,” one of the women said.

“Yeah, they’re not wearing yoga pants only? What’s happening?” Khlifi joked.

She’s sharing a hotel room with three acquaintances: Anchorage attorney Nora Barlow, whom Khlifi knows from her gym, as well as Lori Pickett and Krista Scully, both program administrators at separate Alaska nonprofits.  The four women made their way to an outdoor cafe. A stranger at their communal table wished them well.

Photo by Liz Ruskin.

“So you guys just, overnight, purchased your tickets and jumped on the plane?” He asked. “Well, that’s commitment … I’m impressed.”

Some of the ACLU-sponsored Alaskans met with Murkowski in the afternoon. While they made their case, they could hear a massive protest in the lobby of the Hart Senate Office Building. (More than 300 people were arrested, including actress Amy Schumer.)

A lot of Alaskans wanted to see her, so Murkowski met with 18 at a time.

“It was an intense meeting,” said Moira Smith, an Anchorage attorney and survivor of sexual harassment and assault. She says her group told Murkowski that elevating Kavanaugh would send a terrible message.

Moira Smith and Krista Scully, both of Anchorage, protest at the Supreme Court. Photo: Liz Ruskin.

“It would confirm that men’s behavior like this, which has damaged so many people, can go unnoticed and unblemished, and that people can get away without a real mark,” Smith said. “And it also would cast a terrible cloud over the Supreme Court as an institution.”

Smith said Murkowski told them she remains undecided.

A poll suggested a greater number of Alaskans want Murkowski to confirm the nominee, but the pro-Kavanaugh side is quieter and far less visible at the senator’s office in Washington this week.