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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski Draws First Major Primary Challenger

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski drew her first major primary challenger Monday from the state’s commissioner of administration, Kelly Tshibaka. 


Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski drew her first major primary challenger Monday from the state’s commissioner of administration, Kelly Tshibaka.

“We know what Washington D.C. thinks about Alaska: We’re here for their benefit, and we won’t put up much of a fight. After nearly 20 years in D.C., Lisa Murkowski thinks the same way,” Tshibaka said in an announcement video published Monday declaring her candidacy.

The challenge comes two weeks after the Alaska Republican Party voted to censure Murkowski and pledge support for a primary opponent. While the censure came in part by Murkowski’s vote in favor of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment, the party cited Murkowski’s long history of decisions on consequential issues that fly in the face of conservative and Alaskan interests, from abortion to transgender sports.

“There’s a number of issues that the party has had with Sen. Murkowski for the last several years, which really culminated in the conviction vote of former President Trump,” Kris Warren, who wrote the resolution and runs a local GOP group in Anchorage, told The Hill earlier this month.

The resolution condemned Murkowski’s votes to oppose restrictions on abortion, preserve the Affordable Care Act, and confirm President Joe Biden’s radical pick to lead the Department of Interior, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland. The state party also castigated their home senator for her decision to vote “present” in the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Tshibaka took aim at several of the decisions in her opening ad while branding the Republican incumbent as the beneficiary of a political dynasty where her father, who served as governor, appointed Murkowski to serve in the seat he held since 1981. Murkowski was appointed to the upper chamber in 2002.

“Lisa wasn’t originally elected to the Senate. She didn’t have to fight for it, her dad gave her the seat he was elected to,” Tshibaka said, going on highlight Murkowski’s votes on the Affordable Care Act and confirmation of Haaland who promises to serve as the administration’s vehicle for a radical, progressive environmental agenda to Alaska’s detriment.

Tshibaka also chastised Murkowski for “voting against common-sense judges.” The Alaskan incumbent opposed Kavanaugh in 2018 and later served as a resistant force against the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Murkowski, with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, voted against holding a confirmation vote for Barrett, and voiced distain for confirming Supreme Court nominees amid an election despite unified control of the White House and the Senate in compliance with the McConnell rule which justified the failed nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016.

Despite her ongoing opposition, the Alaska senator ultimately voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the end.

The Alaska Republican Party promoted Tshibaka’s announcement Monday.

Tshibaka resigned her role as Alaska commissioner on administration Monday to pursue Murkowski’s Senate seat, where she presided over a wide-ranging department with agencies which included the Division of Motor Vehicles, Personnel and Labor Relations, and the administrative office charged with maintaining the technological infrastructure of the Alaskan executive branch. Her past work includes stints in the inspector general offices for the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice.

Murkowski has yet to declare a run for re-election next year, but filings with the Federal Election Commission show she ended last year with more than $1 million in her campaign war chest.

This article has been updated since publication for clarity.