- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2021

A super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports reelecting Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska next year, clashing with former President Donald Trump, who’s arguably still the leader of the GOP.

Of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Mr. Trump of impeachment charges earlier this year, only Ms. Murkowski will face voters in next year’s midterm elections. She is a top target of Mr. Trump’s allies, and the outcome of Alaska’s Senate race will help chart the GOP’s national direction as it looks to regain power in Washington.

In explaining its endorsement, the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund cited Ms. Murkowski’s votes for two of Mr. Trump’s three Supreme Court appointments, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, as well as her vote for the 2017 GOP tax overhaul, among other actions.

“Alaska needs the kind of experienced representation that Lisa Murkowski provides in the United States Senate,” Steven Law, Senate Leadership Fund president, said in a statement Friday. “Whether fighting for Alaskan interests like expanding energy production and protecting fisheries, or advancing conservative priorities by confirming judges and cutting taxes, her strong leadership is vitally important to Alaska’s future. Many politicians put themselves first, but Lisa Murkowski always puts Alaska first.”

Ms. Murkowski voted to convict Mr. Trump on impeachment charges earlier this year, but even before then, Mr. Trump had made clear he would work to defeat her over such matters as the nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and health care.

“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” Mr. Trump tweeted in June 2020.

Last month, Mr. Trump reiterated his intention to campaign against Ms. Murkowski and told Politico she was a “disloyal and very bad senator.”

The former president’s influence in the party seems undiminished so far. The Republican National Committee hosted a spring retreat for donors in Florida this weekend featuring Mr. Trump. Later this month, House Republican lawmakers are scheduled to hold their retreat in Florida as well.

A new challenger entered Alaska’s Senate race last month, former Alaska administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka. Upon announcing her run against Ms. Murkowski, she won support from some of Mr. Trump’s allies, including former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who tweeted that he donated to Ms. Tshibaka’s burgeoning campaign.

“We know what Washington, D.C. thinks about Alaska: We’re here for their benefit, we’re not going to put up much of a fight. And after about 20 years in D.C., Lisa Murkowski thinks the same way,” said Ms. Tshibaka in a video announcing her run. “But you know what? Nothing scares those D.C. insiders more than the thought of a strong, independent Alaskan leader in their ranks.”

Ms. Murkowski has experience with primary challengers in Alaska. She won her third term in the Senate in 2016, and she previously won reelection in 2010 as an independent after losing the GOP primary.

Mr. Trump has not made an endorsement in the Alaska Senate race thus far. Several former aides to Mr. Trump, however, are now working with Ms. Tshibaka, including former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien of National Public Affairs and Tim Murtaugh, former Trump campaign spokesperson, according to Politico.

The former president is focused on helping Republicans regain control of Congress and serving as a kingmaker within the party. Last week, Mr. Trump endorsed a pair of former rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination in their bids for reelection to the Senate.

 Mr. Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on Friday, and announced his support for Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Thursday.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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