Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski served as one of seven Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial. She has now received her first Republican challenger who plans to unseat the controversial senator.
Kelly Tshibaka, former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, announced on Monday that she will take on Murkowski in the 2022 Alaska Senate primary. She is the first Republican to declare a run against Murkowski.
Tshibaka’s announcement comes just weeks after the Alaska Republican Party voted to censure Murkowski over her decision to convict Trump. Murkowski plans to run for reelection despite deep opposition from her own party.
Former President Donald Trump has also publicly revealed his plans to campaign against Murkowski. Earlier in March, he noted:
“I will not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski. She represents her state badly and her country even worse. I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.”
Murkowski’s moderate views include more than her opposition vote against Trump. In 2018, she failed to support Brett Kavanaugh as Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. She also urged Trump not to replace Justice Ruther Bader Ginsberg before the 2020 presidential election.
The senator faces lack of support in her own state as well. A survey conducted the first of February, before Murkowski voted to impeach Trump for a second time, found Murkowski holding just a 43 percent favorable rating in Alaska.
Tshibaka’s challenge won’t be easy. Alaska’s senate vote includes a ranked-choice system that permits the top four finishers in the primary from all parties to compete in the general election.
Murkowski will almost certainly make it onto the November ballot, but what will happen if she faces one or more Republicans? The conservative backlash could vote her out if all goes according to Trump’s plan.
A growing concern, however, is that a split Republican vote could hand the Alaska Senate seat to a Democrat. The red state would then be represented by a leader opposed to most of the state’s voters, as well as adding to Democrat power in Washington.
Tshibaka’s run stands as an important piece of America’s conservative movement. If she campaigns well, her run could strengthen the conservatives of Alaska and in Washington. But there is little room for error. Too many opposing candidates could lead to the opposite result. She’ll need the support of her state party, as well as a coveted endorsement from Trump and other top conservative leaders to stand out among what could become a crowded Alaska Senate primary.
The situation reveals the deep need within the conservative movement to unite around candidates who can win and best represent the nation in the future. If we can, there is hope for a future where RINOs like Murkowski will be history.