Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Tshibaka advance to Alaska Senate contest

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a centrist Republican seeking a full fourth term in Washington, qualified for the general election with her main rival, Kelly Tshibaka, in the race for the Senate primaries of the United States. state, according to the Associated Press.

Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka each secured enough votes to qualify for the fall general elections under Alaska’s New Open Primary System. Ms. Murkowski hopes to fend off a conservative backlash following her vote in the Senate to condemn former President Donald J. Trump for instigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

With around 50% of the votes reported, Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka were neck and neck at just over 40% each. The closest rival after them was in the single digits.

Ballots are still being counted and two other candidates will also advance under the state’s first-four system, but it’s unclear which ones.

Ms Murkowski, 65, is the only Senate Republican on the ballot this year who voted to convict Mr Trump in his impeachment trial. She was candid about her frustrations with Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican Party, although she maintained support from the Republican campaign arm of the Senate.

She has also repeatedly crossed the aisle in support of bipartisan compromises and Democratic candidates, including the nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court and the confirmation of Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Interior. And she’s one of only two Senate Republicans who support abortion rights and have expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Roe v. Wadea decision that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years.

These positions rallied state and local Republicans against her, and her impeachment vote earned her a no-confidence vote from the Alaska Republican Party. Mr Trump, furious at his vote to convict him, summoned his supporters to line up behind Ms Tshibaka, a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, who has run as a candidate” America First” which may more adequately represent conservatives in the state.

“Clearly we are at a point where the next senator can either stand with Alaska or continue to enable the disastrous Biden administration that hurts us more every day,” Ms. Tshibaka wrote in an opinion essay published a few days before the primary. “When I become the next senator from Alaska, I will never forget the Alaskans who elected me, and I will always uphold the values ​​of the people of this great state.”

But the new open primary system, coupled with the use of preferential voting in general elections, was designed in part with centrist candidates like Ms Murkowski in mind, and was championed by her allies in the famed independent state.

November voters can rank their top four candidates. If no candidate wins a majority, officials will weed out the last one and reallocate their supporters’ votes to voters’ second choices until one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

Although she has never crossed this threshold in previous elections, Ms Murkowski has already overcome difficult ordeals: in 2010, she memorably triumphed with a campaign written after a stunning primary loss to a Tea Party challenger. This victory was largely due to a coalition of Alaska Natives and centrists.

Ms. Murkowski used her seniority and bipartisan credentials to make her case to Alaska voters, pointing to the billions of dollars she’s funneled into the state through her role on the National Appropriations Committee. Senate and its role in passing the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. .

She cites her friendships with Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and the legacy of Alaska lawmakers like the former senator. Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, who died in Marchto show that there is still a place in Congress for his style of legislating.

“You have to demonstrate that there are other possibilities, that there is a different reality – and maybe that won’t work,” Ms Murkowski said. in an interview this year. “Maybe I’m completely naive politically and that ship has sailed. But I won’t know unless we — unless I — stay out there and give the Alaskans a chance to weigh in.

Her challengers, however, are looking to capitalize on frustrations with Ms Murkowski in both parties. As well as calling her too liberal for the state, Ms Tshibaka seized on the simmering resentment over how Ms Murkowski’s father, Frank, singled her out for complete his term as a senator when he became governor in 2002.

Alyce McFadden contributed report.

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