Lisa Murkowski — one of the few Republicans willing to split party ranks — won the US Senate race in Alaska on Wednesday, fending off a challenge from Kelly Chebacka, the Trump-backed right-wing Republican.
Murkowski received over 43% of the first-choice vote. Tshibaka, the former commissioner of the Alaska Administrative Department, polled just under 43%, trailing the incumbent by just over 2,000 votes. Democrat Pat Chesebrough, a retired rancher, gets 10%. Republican Buzz Kelly received 3%.
After the top-ranked votes were tabulated on Wednesday afternoon, Murkowski emerged with 53.7% of the vote ahead of Chebaka with 46.3%. More than two-thirds of Chesbro voters ranked second to Murkowski.
The race was widely seen as a referendum on Trump and his control of the Republican Party. Murkowski was criticized by the leadership of the Alaska Republican Party, which endorsed Chebaka, after the senator voted to impeach Trump following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
Tshibaka returned to Alaska in 2019 after 18 years working in non-partisan roles for the federal government in Washington, DC. Her track record of partisanship and willingness to support the two major candidates for President Joe Biden.
[Rep. Mary Peltola wins Alaska’s U.S. House race]
Murkowski’s campaign has focused on her experience working on bipartisan legislation, including her role in crafting a federal infrastructure bill that would bring billions to Alaska for projects including broadband, ferry improvements and port construction.
She also highlighted her record as one of only two Republican senators open to legalizing abortion access in federal law, after the US Supreme Court in June struck down nearly five decades of federal protection for the procedure.
[Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy reelected to second term]
Murkowski took advantage of a new electoral system in Alaska that voters adopted with the Ballot initiative in 2020. The initiative, drafted and supported by Murkowski’s allies, did away with the partisan primary, which would have pitted Murkowski against Chebaka in an August head-to-head race. Instead, the top four winners—regardless of party—advanced to the general election.
Murkowski also drew support from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose PAC leadership has spent millions on ads attacking Tshibaka, angering Republican leaders across the country who had hoped to see more spending on competitive Senate races elsewhere. .
Thanks to a coalition of supporters that included Alaska Native groups, labor organizations and voters across the political spectrum, Murkowski received more votes than Chebaka in both the primary and general elections, in an apparent rebuke to Trump.
Trump had promised to campaign against Murkowski in 2020; She has openly defied him during his presidency even when many of her fellow Republicans were afraid to do so. Trump made good on that promise last July, when he held a rally in Anchorage that included Chebaka. The former president spent more time defending Murkowski—whom he described as “worse than RINO”—than Tshibaka.
Murkowski was first appointed to the US Senate in 2002 by her father, former Senator Frank Murkowski, when he won a race for governor of Alaska. Murkowski defied the political odds when she won a write-in campaign in 2010 after losing the Republican primary to a right-wing challenger. Now she is poised to fill the seat for another six years.
“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds, and party affiliations — have once again given me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing the important work that lies ahead,” Murkowski said in a statement.
[Palin first to sign new ballot initiative to repeal ranked choice voting]
Chebaka, who had previously hinted she might contest the results, dropped out of the race in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s clear from the arranged selection tables that Senator Lisa Murkowski has been re-elected, and I congratulate her on that,” Chebaka said.
She continued to criticize the state’s new voting system, calling it an “incumbent protection program”, and lamented McConnell’s support of Murkowski, accusing the Senate minority leader of spending money to secure “a Senate minority he could control, as opposed to a majority he could not”.
Chebaka said she would “keep fighting for Alaska,” but would “take some time to think about what that might look like.”
• • •