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When Senator Lisa Murkowski voted to convict President Trump on impeachment charges late in his term of office, she guaranteed that he would campaign against her receiving the GOP nomination for her 2022 re-election campaign. In March, he promised to travel to Alaska to campaign against her, and yesterday he endorsed candidate for Senate Kelly Tshibaka.
The New York Times signaled to the rest of the agitprop media the line of attack to take against the endorsee in the first paragraph of its story on the endorsement:
Former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Kelly Tshibaka on Friday in her race against Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, giving his support to an outsider candidate who promoted false claims of election fraud last year and has written articles in support of gay conversion therapy.
Stand by for a torrent of media, backed by endless dollars of dark money for online and on-the-ground campaigning, painting Kelly Tshibaka as a crazed right-wing religious fanatic likely to lead an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. A.G. Merrick Garland may even target her for thought crimes now that he has made questioning the 2020 election’s integrity evidence of incitement to insurrection.
President Trump beat Joe Biden by over 10 points in Alaska in the 2020 presidential race, but because third parties got nearly 10 percent of the vote, Trump carried only 52.83% of the vote. It is by no means a sure thing for Tshibaka to defeat Murkowski, who pulled off a nearly impossible win in 2010, when Tea Party candidate Joe Miller won the primary, but Murkowski won the November election on a write-in vote. That remarkable accomplishment took place in the aura of her father, former senator and governor Frank Murkowski, but the twelve subsequent years may have dimmed the effectiveness of that tie.
However, thanks to a ballot initiative passed in 2020, Alaska has adopted an open primary system that insulates Murkowski from an almost inevitable loss were the GOP to have a primary election:
in August 2022, it won’t be just Republican voters who decide whether Murkowski should advance to the November ballot. She and whoever else wants the seat, of any party, will be on the same ballot for all primary voters. The top four will advance to the general election, and voters will rank them on the November ballot.
Murkowski said the new open primary and ranked-choice voting puts her in a better position.
“I think so,” she said. “I actually, after giving it a fair amount of study, I like that this will put forward, hopefully, a process that is less rancorous.”
Scott Kendall, the father of Ballot Measure 2, worked on Murkowski’s past campaigns. He said he didn’t design the new system to benefit her. The impetus came when he was chief of staff to independent Gov. Bill Walker. Kendall said he saw how reluctant state legislators were to forge a compromise on a big bill, even when they thought it made good sense. They’d tell him they’d lose their seat in a primary.
“Whenever a public official acted in the public good, and probably acted in a way their constituents wanted, kind of their leadership moments,” Kendall said. “In the old system, their leadership moments would be their biggest liabilities.”
The open primary rewards moderation, Kendall said, because candidates can make their case to the entire constituency, rather than only the party faithful.
Expect massive media attention on the August 2022 Alaska primary and claims that Trump no longer rules in the Republican Party if Murkowski appears on the November ballot, as she almost certainly will. If Tshibaka gets all of Trump’s 2020 voters, she may win an absolute majority. But if not, then the second choice of the fourth-place finisher will be added to the vote totals of the top three. You can expect plenty of money going into securing second-place votes for Murkowski by demonizing Tshibaka and Trump. If there is still no winner of an absolute majority, then the second-place votes for the number-three candidate will be added to the frontrunners’ totals.
It is a wild card: impossible to predict.