JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has won re-election, defeating Donald Trump-backed GOP rival Kelly Tshibaka.
Murkowski beat Tshibaka in the November 8 rankings. The results were announced Wednesday as election officials tabulated the ranking results after neither candidate won more than 50% of the first election vote. Murkowski ended up with 54% of the vote after the leaderboard poll and received the majority of votes cast for Democrat Pat Chesbro after she was eliminated.
“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations — have once again trusted me to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate,” Murkowski said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing the important work that lies ahead.”
Tshibaka congratulated Murkowski in a statement published on her website, but criticized the ranking choice.
“The new voting system was frustrating for many Alaskans because it was undeniably designed as an incumbent protection program and clearly worked as intended,” she said.
The race also included Republican Buzz Kelley, who suspended his campaign after the August primary and supported Tshibaka.
Murkowski was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial last year and was up for re-election this year. Trump was not convicted. But her vote was a sore point for the former president, who vowed to fight her.
In 2020, ahead of that year’s election and well before Tshibaka entered the Senate race, Trump announced plans to campaign against Murkowski after she criticized him: “Get every candidate ready, good or bad it is.” I don’t care, I support him. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”
He appeared at a rally in Anchorage in July for Tshibaka and Sarah Palin, whose candidacy he supported for Alaska’s only seat in the US House of Representatives. Most recently, he took part in a tele rally for Tshibaka at the end of October. Tshibaka, who worked in the federal inspector’s offices before leading Alaska’s Department of Administration for two years, credited Trump with helping raise her profile and giving a boost to her candidacy.
Murkowski, who was reprimanded last year by leaders of the Republican state party for criminal offenses that included her impeachment vote, paid little attention and focus to Trump during a campaign in which she emphasized her willingness to work across party lines on their balance sheet and seniority. Murkowski, a moderate who has been in the Senate since 2002, is the longest-serving member of the Alaskan congressional delegation following the death in March of Republican Representative Don Young, who held the Alaska House seat for 49 years.
Murkowski is no stranger to tough re-election campaigns. She won a general election campaign in 2010 after losing her party primary to a Tea Party Republican that year. When she entered this race, she 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 introduced ranking voting in general elections. Under the open primary system, the top four voters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. “Our US Senate elections in Alaska proved to be yet another victory for Washington, DC insiders who rarely have our best interests at heart,” Tshibaka said in her post-election statement.
Tshibaka criticized a super PAC working with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell for running ads against them when she said those resources could have been used to help Republicans in other states.
She said she ranked “the Reds” or Republican candidates on her ballot — but not in the Senate race. She said she doesn’t think Murkowski is a “red” candidate.
“I didn’t vote for her either,” Murkowski said on election day.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen of Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.
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