- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2021

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced on Friday her bid for reelection, setting up a battle to fend off a challenge by an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The Alaska Republican’s campaign video says Ms. Murkowski focuses on working with both major parties to push through “partisan gridlock and dysfunction,” and she warns about “lower 48 outsiders” who “are going to try to grab Alaska’s Senate seat for their partisan agenda.”

She adds, “They don’t understand our state, and frankly, they couldn’t care less about your future.”

Ms. Murkowski, 63, faces an aggressive Republican opponent, Kelly Tshibaka, a Harvard-trained lawyer, who spent 18 years in Washington in the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s Office and has the support of Mr. Trump.

The Senate Leadership Fund, associated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, endorsed Ms. Murkowski, establishing another battle between the two party leaders.

Ms. Murkowski’s relationship with Alaska’s Republican voters has been tenuous after her father, Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski, appointed her to his seat in 2002 after he resigned from the Senate and was elected governor. Ms. Murkowski completed her father’s term, which ended in January 2005.

Since that time, she has won three reelections through a plurality of the vote. In 2010, Ms. Murkowski faced her most challenging reelection battle to date, which resulted in her losing the GOP primary, but she launched a successful write-in campaign in the general election.

The Alaska Republican Party, though, censured her in March for her impeachment-related vote to convict Mr. Trump. The state party instead endorsed Ms. Tshibaka, but the state is changing the way its citizens vote.

In 2022, Alaska will change to a “top four” and “ranked-choice” voting system for the first time. Every candidate from all parties will be listed together on one primary ballot, and the top four will advance to the general election.

Prior to Ms. Murkowski’s announcement, Ms. Tshibaka led the Republican incumbent in a Democrat-sponsored poll in May that showed her winning less than half of the votes of Ms. Tshibaka in a theoretical ranked-choice scenario with a Democratic Party candidate and an Independence Party candidate.
However, Ms. Murkowski has a substantial war chest and leads all the declared primary candidates with more than $4.5 million raised and $3.2 million cash on hand. Ms. Tshibaka has an uphill climb to catch up in fundraising, with over $1.2 million raised and nearly $300,000 cash on hand. 

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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