JUNE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski won re-election by defeating Donald Trump-backed Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka.
Murkowski defeated Tshibaka in the November 8 ranked choice election. The results were announced Wednesday, when election officials tabulated the ranked-option results after neither candidate garnered more than 50% of first-choice votes.
The race also included Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Buzz Kelley, who suspended his campaign after the August primary and endorsed Tshibaka.
Murkowski was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial last year and who was on the ballot this year. Trump was not convicted. But his vote was a sore spot for the former president, who has vowed to campaign against him.
In 2020, ahead of that year’s election and long before Tshibaka launched into the Senate race, Trump announced plans to campaign against Murkowski after she criticized him: “Groom any candidate, good or bad, I don’t care, I support it. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”
He appeared at a rally in Anchorage in July for Tshibaka and Sarah Palin, whose bid for Alaska’s only seat in the US House of Representatives he endorsed. She most recently participated in a telerally for Tshibaka in late October. Tshibaka, who worked at the federal inspectors headquarters before heading the Alaska Department of Administration for two years, credited Trump with helping to increase his name recognition and jumpstart his candidacy. .
Murkowski, who was censured by state GOP leaders last year for offenses including her impeachment vote, paid little attention to Trump during a campaign that stressed his willingness to work across party lines and focused on on its history and seniority. Murkowski, a moderate who has been in the Senate since 2002, is the longest-serving member of Alaska’s congressional delegation following the death in March of Republican Rep. Don Young, who held Alaska’s House seat for 49 years.
Murkowski is no stranger to tough re-election fights. He won a write-in campaign in the general election in 2010 after losing his party’s primary that year to a Tea Party Republican. Coming into this race, he had never won a general election with more than 50% of the vote.
This year’s elections were held under a new system approved by voters in 2020 that replaced party primaries with open primaries and instituted ranked-choice voting in general elections. Under the open primary system, the top four voters, regardless of their party affiliation, advance to the general election.
Tshibaka criticized a super PAC aligned with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for running ads against him when he said those resources could have been used to help Republicans in other states.
She said she “ranked red” candidates, or Republicans, on her ticket, but not in the Senate race. She said that she did not consider Murkowski a “red” candidate.
“I didn’t vote for her either,” Murkowski said on Election Day.