Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski still weighing reelection decision

Trump, who won state by 10 points, pledged to campaign against her

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is still weighing whether to run for a fourth term.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is still weighing whether to run for a fourth term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 13, 2021 at 3:10pm

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is still weighing whether to run for a fourth full term, and she demurred Tuesday on a timeline for her decision. The Alaska Republican told reporters at the Capitol that she will make her final decision “when I make it.” 

“I have been doing everything that a good incumbent does in terms of preserving my options, visiting with Alaskans, spending a lot of time, as much time on the ground as I can, and raising money,” Murkowski said. 

Former President Donald Trump, who won Alaska by 10 percentage points in November, has vowed to campaign against Murkowski. The senator has frequently criticized the former president and voted to convict Trump after his impeachment for inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6. 

Late last month, Murkowski drew her first GOP challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, the head of Alaska’s Department of Administration. Tshibaka has been working with some members of Trump’s former campaign team, Politico reported

Murkowski declined to comment on Tshibaka directly. Asked whether she had any thoughts on her GOP challenger, Murkowski replied, “Not really.” 

Murkowski also noted that she expects to have challengers from multiple parties, thanks to Alaska’s new ranked-choice system, which voters approved via a ballot initiative last fall. Under the system, candidates from all parties will compete in one primary, and the top four vote-getters will advance to the general election, where voters will rank them in order of preference. The new system could help Murkowski fend off challengers from her own party. 

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 third term in 2016 by 15 points.

Murkowski will also have some help from the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which endorsed her on Friday. 

"Alaska needs the kind of experienced representation that Lisa Murkowski provides in the United States Senate,” SLF president Steven Law said in a statement. 

SLF spent $294 million in independent expenditures in the 2020 cycle, including $6.9 million on the Alaska Senate race, where GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan fended off a challenge from independent Al Gross, a well-financed challenger who was endorsed by Democrats. Gross is also weighing a run against Murkowski, Inside Elections reported this week. 

Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, who ran the National Republican Senatorial Committee when Murkowski lost her primary in 2010, said the Alaska senator should not be underestimated. After Murkowski lost her primary, the NRSC backed Miller in the race.  

“She's pretty resilient,” Cornyn said at the Capitol on Monday. “You may remember she had lost the primary and then won the write-in, which was just, really, pretty impressive. I certainly wouldn't count her out.”

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