Murkowski takes the lead over conservative foe in Alaska Senate race


Lisa Murkowski
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, pauses for reporters as she departs a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Murkowski joined Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., this week in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act rather than struggle with the impasse of the “For the People Act,” the Democrats’ effort to expand access to the ballot box. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Murkowski takes the lead over conservative foe in Alaska Senate race

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has taken a slim lead over her Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, boding well for her prospects of overcoming a conservative insurgency.

The third-full-term senator holds a slight lead over over Tshibaka, 43.3% to 42.68%, with about 95% of the vote accounted for, displaying considerable gains after the tabulation of absentee and early ballots. With no candidate appearing likely to clinch a majority outright, the race appears likely to be determined by the counting of second-choice votes slated for Wednesday.


“And just like that … Kelly’s claim she only lost because of ranked-choice voting was gone,” a GIF Murkowski tweeted read after she solidified a lead.

Under Alaska’s recently retooled election system, the top four candidates advance to a general election and voters number their choices in the ranked-choice voting system. Some conservatives have blamed the system for former Gov. Sarah Palin’s defeat to Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK) for the state’s congressional seat.

Murkowski had topped Tshibaka in the primary. She was the only one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial following the Capitol riot. Two others opted not to run again, and the rest were up for reelection.

Trump had raged against the centrist Republican and backed Tshibaka in the open primary. She was also censured by the Alaska Republican Party for that vote, who declared she should not vie for reelection — something she ignored.

It wasn’t the first time Murkowski had weathered a conservative revolt. In 2010, she lost her Republican primary to a Tea Party challenger, but then staged a comeback write-in campaign in the general election in a stunning victory that marked the first time a sitting senator won reelection via write-in in over half a century.

She has long supported abortion rights and occasionally defected from her party on guns, infrastructure, healthcare, and more during her time in the upper chamber. Murkowski was famously the only Republican senator to vote against Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.


In order to win, both sides have to emerge with a majority rather than a plurality during the ranked-choice runoff. Murkowski is regarded as one of the most centrist members of the Senate GOP caucus.

Either way, a Republican is projected to win the Senate seat, given Murkowski’s and Tshibaka’s strong showing. Democrats have already clinched the Senate, obtaining 50 seats and having Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker vote. Both parties are also waiting on the Georgia Senate runoff on Dec. 6 to see the final margins of the Senate.

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