Things looked dire originally for the top GOP senator on Donald Trump’s enemies list, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. After defeating her opponent in the primary, Murkowski trailed Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka for days after the polls closed on Nov. 8. But on Wednesday night, when the state’s ranked-choice voting tabulation ended, Murkowski cruised to a 54-46 victory.
Alaska was never going to be a Senate seat that turned blue — at least not in this election, where the state’s new ranked-choice voting system pitted two Republicans against each other: Kelly Tshibaka (pronounced “Chewbakka,” or pretty close) and incumbent Trump-impeacher Murkowski. Pat Chesbrough, a Democrat, trailed far behind with just over 10 percent of the first-preference vote. Despite Murkowski’s vaunted independent streak, that’s still roughly 86 percent of Alaska voters choosing Republicans as their first choice. For now, that puts a damper on the aspirations of anyone hoping to see the far north turn purple.
But Murkowski’s victory should come as a big relief to Americans who still care about preserving democracy — she’s the only surviving Republican senator who voted to impeach Trump in this general election.
Consider who’s almost there: Tshibaka, Trump and the Alaska GOP-endorsed candidate. In the campaign ad, she stands silhouetted against a mountain range, ice floes crashing behind her like an Alaskan version of the Gilead housewife, who talks about her parents’ temporary homelessness and being the first in her family to earn a college degree. – there were both claims exposed Alaskan journalist Dermot Cole. We then cut to what we assume is Kelly’s home kitchen, where she says, “I’m a conservative: pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and America First.”
Tshibaka has tried to portray himself as a Washington outsider, despite spending nearly 20 years in the Beltway, working for various federal inspectors general, before returning to Alaska in 2019 (enough time to establish residency for a Senate candidate). While the president acknowledged that Biden is the president, he still thinks there are “unanswered questions.” While Tshibaka was smart enough to delete his social media before announcing his Senate candidacy, CNN reported that he used it to spread baseless conspiracies of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.
As a student at Harvard Law School, he wrote in support of conversion therapy for LGBTQ people and argued that Christianity could help people. “work through the process of coming out of homosexuality.” He has since claimed that the article was an opposition article designated by his editors and that he no longer holds those views (which sounds like contradictory excuses, but whatever). In another Harvard Law article, he he wrote As a conservative, he believes there is no “wall of separation between church and state.”
In short, he faces charges of fraud and an exaggerated origin story, serious demands for modern Republicans of the MAGA era.
Then there’s Murkowski, almost the opposite in every way. He is part of a political dynasty that held the Senate seat vacated by his father. He is anti-Trump, pro-choice, and has refused to buy into the MAGA anti-CRT, trans-bashing, culture war rhetoric. According to Govtrack, he is not only the most liberal Republican in the Senate, but also to the left of Manchin and Sineman. In addition to voting to impeach Trump, he voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and was one of the few Republicans who actually supported him in June. some of them anti-gun measures. In many ways, he is emblematic of a state that has traditionally refused to fold into party lines: More than half of Alaska’s voters are registered independents.
That wasn’t good enough for state Republicans condemned because of his vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial. “The party does not want Lisa Murkowski to be the Republican nominee,” said former state governor Tuckerman Babcock (real name) when he criticized her in 2021. advertisements.
Despite his loss, it’s likely we won’t see the end of Tshibaka, who has hinted all week that he will challenge the results if he loses.
Although there is no evidence that the preferred vote favored one side over the other or was indicative of fraud, likely this ranked choice helped Murkowski win this election: he was elected about 70 percent of Democrats second choice votes. According to the Alaska Survey Research request, he has the approval rating of 43 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans. With numbers like these, it’s entirely plausible that he would lose to Tshibaka in a traditional Republican primary. Most Alaskans are not registered Democrats or Republicans, and opinion on Murkowski tends to be split down the middle.
Tshibaka’s loss was a relief to some, given that he would be one of the more extreme Republicans in the Senate. It is also a rebuke to Donald Trump, who has gone all out to support Tshibaka and remove the thorn in his side. While Murkowski will continue to be a voice of common sense on elections and abortion rights, that doesn’t mean she’s a winner for America as a whole. He has a poor record on labor rights and is a die-hard proponent of heavy resource extraction, mainly in the form of fossil fuels and mining—including throwing his support behind oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So he is not very good. But he is less evil.