Alaska will send a Republican to the U.S. Senate, but it is not yet clear which one.
Kelly Tshibaka currently leads incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski by less than 2%. Because Alaska decides its election through ranked-choice voting, the results could take weeks to be made official. Neither candidate is currently on track to secure 50% of the first-place votes during the first round of tabulation – the only way to immediately determine a winner.
The race has documented the tension in the party between those who support Donald Trump and those who do not.
Murkowski was first elected in 2002. She voted to impeach Trump during his second trial – a decision for which she was later censured by the Republican Party of Alaska. While she led Tshibaka in the primary, both women — as well as the third- and fourth-place finishers — advanced to the general election.
While Trump was open about his antipathy for her, Murkowski had the support of other established Republican leaders including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Republican Party of Alaska formally censured the Kentucky representative in October for funding advertisements that attacked Tshibaka, who had the party’s endorsement.
The state party said the ads were “malicious” and “gross distortions of fact.” It argued that by commissioning them and endorsing Murkowski, McConnell was acting against its will and was “in violation of the Republican Party of Kentucky.”
Emphasizing her reputation as a centrist, Murkowski stressed her bipartisan legislative efforts in the Senate, including introducing a bill to codify Roe v. Wade after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision.
She also said publicly she would rank the lone Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives, Representative Mary Peltola, first on her ballot – ahead of Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.
Tshibaka relied on Murkowski’s voting record to show she did not hold values important to many voters. She cast the incumbent as extreme in her views on a number of key issues, including abortion, during a debate two weeks before Election Day.
“The incumbent has voted in 2018 and 2020 to allow abortions to continue all the way up to when a baby is being born,” Tshibaka said. “I think that’s too extreme. … I’m pro-life.”
The former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration said voters in Alaska were concerned about “inflation and jobs” going into midterm elections. She criticized President Biden for costing the state jobs in the oil industry as part of his environmental objectives, per Newsmax.
Trump has celebrated Tshibaka, who he called a “fighter who stands for Alaska values and America First” and who is “MAGA all the way.” The former president won Alaska in 2016 (52.9%) and 2020 (52.8%).
A poll from AARP published in September found Tshibaka led Murkowski, 43% to 35%, in the first round of ranked-choice voting. The poll also predicted that, by the time the third-place finisher was eliminated, the two Republicans would be evenly tied.
Tshibaka said she believes the state needs a U.S. senator who represents Alaska to Washington, D.C., rather than one who represents D.C. insiders to Alaska.
“The coming election presents a unique opportunity to chart a new course for Alaska,” she said in a statement to Anchorage Daily News. “We deserve a senator who remembers us, and who believes the Senate seat she holds is of, by, and for the people of Alaska.”
Murkowski’s campaign has expressed its confidence in an impending win.
“Our campaign has conducted polling throughout this race, and we remain very confident in our internal numbers. Alaskans took a public poll in August when they voted in the primary, a primary where Lisa beat Kelly Tshibaka by 7 points,” Murkowski campaign spokesperson Shea Siegert told Fox News.