Lisa Murkowski draws GOP challenger in Alaska Senate race

Kelly Tshibaka criticizes Murkowski's vote to convict Trump

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski drew a Republican challenger on Monday.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski drew a Republican challenger on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 29, 2021 at 1:00pm

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski has drawn a Republican challenger, roughly two weeks after the state party pledged to challenge the three-term senator for voting to convict former President Donald Trump after his impeachment trial. 

Kelly Tshibaka, the head of Alaska’s Department of Administration, announced Monday she would challenge Murkowski, who has not yet said she is definitely running for reelection in 2022. 

Tshibaka referenced Murkowski’s vote to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, saying in her five-minute announcement video, “Lisa Murkowski is so out of touch that she even voted to remove Donald Trump from office even after he was already gone.”

Earlier this month, the Alaska Republican Party censured Murkowski over her impeachment vote and pledged to recruit a Republican to challenge the longtime senator. Murkowski is the lone GOP senator up for reelection in 2022 who voted to convict the former president. Two other Republicans in states with competitive Senate races who opted not to run for reelection, Pennsylvania’s Patrick J. Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard M. Burr, also voted to convict. 

Tshibaka painted Murkowski as a career politician and D.C. insider who sides with Democrats. The senator is known for her independent streak in Washington. She has sided with her party’s leadership 75 percent of the time, according to CQ Vote Watch, well below the average GOP senator, who supports party leadership 91 percent of the time. 

Tshibaka plans to resign her post in the state government, where she led a wide-ranging department that included the Division of Motor Vehicles, according to the Anchorage Daily News. 

Trump, who carried Alaska by 10 points in 2020, has promised to campaign against Murkowski. But defeating her could be an uphill battle. She has prevailed against challenges before, waging a successful write-in campaign after losing her 2010 primary to tea party challenger Joe Miller. Murkowski won a second term in 2016 by 15 points.

The incumbent senator could also benefit from a new ranked-choice system approved by Alaska voters last year. Under the system, candidates from all parties will compete in one primary, and the top four vote-getters advance to the general election where voters rank them in order of preference.