Born in Ketchikan, Alaska, she is the daughter of former U.S. Senator and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski. She graduated from Georgetown University and received her law degree from Willamette University College of Law. After working as an attorney in the 1980s and 1990s, she was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1998. Shortly after being elected House Majority Leader in 2002, she was appointed to the United States Senate by her father.
Murkowski was re-elected to a full term in 2004. Her 2010 re-election grew turbulent when former magistrate judge Joe Miller defeated her in the Republican primary. Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign, winning the general election. The long-shot campaign made national headlines: the only other Senate candidate to win a write-in vote was Strom Thurmond in 1954. Murkowski is the only current Republican Senator from any West Coast state. Since winning re-election, her voting record has become more moderate when compared to her previous years in the Senate.