JUNEAU, Alaska — Republican U.S. Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski walked out of her primary with former President Donald Trump-endorsed GOP rival Kelly Tshibaka, while another Trump-backed candidate, Republican Sarah Palin, was among the candidates for the general in November. election in the race for Alaska’s only seat in the House.
Murkowski had expressed confidence in his progress and earlier in the day told reporters that “what matters is winning in November”. Tshibaka called the findings “the first step in breaking the Murkowski monarchy’s hold on Alaska.” Tshibaka also said she was grateful “for the strong and unwavering support President Trump has shown Alaska.”
A Murkowski has held the Senate seat since 1981. Before Lisa Murkowski, who has served in the Senate since late 2002, it was her father, Frank Murkowski.
In a voter-approved electoral process used for the first time in elections in Alaska this year, party primaries have been scrapped and preferential-choice voting is used in general elections. The top four voters in a primary race, regardless of political affiliation, must qualify for the general election.
It was too early to call the other two spots in the Senate race.
Murkowski voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising. Trump was acquitted. But he had strong words for Murkowski, calling her “the worst” at a rally last month in Anchorage.
Murkowski said that if Tshibaka draws her only strength from Trump’s endorsement, “what does that really say about her as a candidate with what she has to offer Alaska? Is it fair that she will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump? I think all Alaskans are really looking for that. Not the ones I’m talking to.
Kevin Durling, Tshibaka’s campaign co-chair, said Tshibaka’s endorsement of Trump was an added bonus for him. He said Tshibaka’s commitment to business and family and his values were important to him. He expressed frustration with Murkowski for the impeachment vote and for his support for the nomination of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
In the House primary, Democrat Mary Peltola, Palin and Republican Nick Begich qualified for the November election. It was too early to call fourth place. The winner of the November race will be elected for a two-year term.
Peltola, Begich and Palin were also in a special election to serve as the remnant of the late Representative. Don Young’s term, which ends early next year. Young died in March.
The special election was the first chance for voters to vote ranked in a statewide race. The winner of the special election may not be known until at least August 31. If successful, Peltola would be the first Alaska Native woman elected to the House.
There were also several candidates entered in the special election, including Republican Tara Sweeney, who was also running in the House primary. Sweeney was Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the US Department of the Interior during the Trump administration.
The special election was on one side of the ballot; the other side contained primary races for the United States Senate, United States House, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and legislative seats.
Palin, in a statement late Tuesday, called it “the first test case of the crazy, convoluted and unwanted priority voting system.”
Proponents of ranked voting said it encouraged positive campaigning, but the House race took on harsh tones at times.
Begich, a businessman from a family of prominent Democrats, spoke out harshly against Palin, seeking to cast her as a glorious person and a quitter; Palin resigned during her term as governor in 2009.
In a Begich ad, the narrator says Alaska has faced “years of disasters,” including fires and COVID-19. “Sarah Palin is a disaster we can actually avoid,” the narrator said.
A narrator in one of Palin’s commercials calls Begich a “negative Nick” and says that Palin wants to serve in Congress “to carry the torch of Don Young”.
Peltola, a former lawmaker who recently worked for a commission whose goal is to restore the salmon resources of the Kuskokwim River, presented herself as a consensus builder.
She said one thing that would help her be a good rep is that she’s “not a millionaire. I’m like every other Alaskan and I understand the economic hardship that Alaskans face. My priorities are the priorities of Alaskans.”
In a statement Wednesday morning, she said that while the results of the special election won’t be known for some time, “we are moving towards the general election. We will build on this momentum and build a coalition of Alaskans who can win in November.”
In the race for governor of Alaska, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy advanced, as did former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and Democrat Les Gara. It was too early to call fourth place.
Dunleavy and her running mate, Nancy Dahlstrom, said in a statement that “this is just the start of the race. We’ll be digging into all the numbers as they come in over the next few days to find out where we need to shore up our campaign, and we look forward to reaching every Alaskan and winning their vote by November.”
Walker runs with Heidi Drygas and Gara with Jessica Cook.