Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, has a GOP challenger for the 2022 Senate race.
Kelly Tshibaka, the former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, announced Monday that she will challenge Murkowski in a 2022 primary election, becoming the first Republican candidate to declare their intentions to become the next U.S. senator from Alaska.
Tshibaka stepped down as commissioner to join the race, and in a press release Monday, her campaign accused Murkowski of enabling President Joe Biden and “his radical agenda to end drilling and kill Alaska jobs.” The campaign also accused Murkowski of voting against “common sense judges,” remarks that bring to mind Murkowski’s unwillingness to vote to confirm then-judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court back in 2018.
The Tshibaka campaign also hit Murkowski for her decision to convict Trump for incitement of insurrection during his second impeachment trial, a decision the campaign suggests was one of the many ways Murkowski has worked against Alaskan interests as senator. Six other Republicans voted to convict Trump in February, but of the group, Murkowski is the only one who faces re-election in 2022. (Another two, Senators Richard Burr and Pat Toomey, won’t seek re-election and plan to retire.)
Lisa Murkowski hasn’t publicly said whether she plans to run for re-election in 2022, having told reporters in Alaska last month that she was “doing what I should be doing to ensure that I have that option and that opportunity to run for yet another term,” reports the Anchorage Daily News.
The Alaska senator has also stood by her decision to convict Trump, telling POLITICO in February: “This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions.”
Murkowski, who has a reputation as a centrist, has previously survived Republican senatorial challenges while in office, most notably in 2010, when she lost the party’s nomination to another senate candidate, Joe Miller.
But Murkowski later joined the Senate race as a write-in candidate and beat Miller — by several points — as well as a Democratic candidate. Before Murkowski’s 2010 victory, the first, and only, candidate to win a write-in Senate campaign in a general election had been Strom Thurmond, the Democratic governor of South Carolina who beat his own party’s nominee for U.S. Senate back in 1954.
Tshibaka’s challenge comes weeks after the Alaska Republican Party reportedly voted to censure Murkowski over her decision to convict Trump, according to The Associated Press. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), who voted to acquit Trump, has said he will back Murkowski in a re-election bid despite the reported opposition against her from within the state party.
Prior to becoming the Alaska Department of Administration commissioner in 2019, Tshibaka worked as the chief data officer for the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service during the Trump administration and Barack Obama administration. She also served as the acting inspector general for the Federal Trade Commission.