JUNIAU, Alaska (AP) — They come from the most prominent Republican families of their states. They were among the harshest critics of former President Donald Trump’s GOP. And after the January 6 uprisingthey supported his impeachment.
But for all their similarities, the political fortune of US Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming are about to split up Tuesday, when they’re each on the ballot in close-quarters primary election.
Cheney faces daunting prospects in her bid to fend off Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, and increasingly looks to a life outside of Capitol Hill that could include a possible presidential campaign. However, Murkowski is expected to go through with her primary and is already planning to run in November’s general election.
The expected results stem, at least in part, from the nuanced politics of each state. Wyoming is a Republican stronghold, delivering Trump his strongest win of any state in the 2020 campaign. Alaska, meanwhile, has a history of rewarding candidates with an independent streak.
But Murkowski has an added advantage in the way Alaska’s election is being held this year. The winner-take-all primaries, like the one Cheney is involved in, have been replaced by a voter-approved process that lists all candidates together. The four who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election, where the ranking will be used.
Murkowski benefits from avoiding a Republican primary, “which she would have had a zero percent — I mean zero percent — chance of winning,” said Alaska pollster Ivan Moore.
Murkowski has 18 challengers in her primary, the most prominent being Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who has endorsed Trump. The Alaska Democratic Party, meanwhile, backs Pat Chesbro, a retired educator.
In an interview, Murkowski insisted that she would be one of the candidates to move on from the primary, saying her success will require coalition building in part.
“That’s kind of my forte, that’s what I do,” she said.
For his part, Trump has been harsh in his assessment of Murkowski. At a meeting in Anchorage last month with Tshibaka and Sarah Palin, whom he backed for Alaska’s only House seat, he called Murkowski “the worst.” I rate her number 1 badly.”
Trump took part in a telepresentation for Tshibaka on Thursday, as Murkowski mingled with supporters at the opening of a campaign office in Juneau, which boasted a spread that contained moose chili and smoked salmon dip. Murkowski said Trump has no role in her campaign.
“He’s going to do what he’s going to do,” she said. But she told supporters the campaign will be challenging.
Murkowski was censored last year by Alaska Republican Party leaders over numerous grievances, including the impeachment vote and speaking out critically of Trump and her support for the nomination of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
Tuckerman Babcock, a former chairman of the state’s Republican Party who is running for the state Senate, said Murkowski has lost the support of many Republicans in Alaska, which he described as a “political reality” for a record many years. mentioned.
Republicans in Alaska are “nearly unanimous in their opposition to Lisa Murkowski,” he said. “Are they divided on other matters? Naturally.”
Babcock said the new electoral system allows candidates to identify themselves with a party and is not an improvement over the party’s old primary process.
Chuck Kopp, a former Republican state legislator, is hopeful about the new system. Kopp lost his Republican primary in 2020 after being part of a bipartisan state house majority made up of mostly Democrats.
“It’s just the fringe that clings like a deadly grip to a failed paradigm, and that paradigm is extreme partisanship at all costs,” he said. “I think Alaska is going to take a leading role in moving away from that. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Kopp said that while he hasn’t always supported Murkowski, she’s been “fearless when it counts for this country”.
“I think she showed that personality cults are not conservative, conspiracy theories are not conservative, and treating politics as a religion is not conservative,” Kopp said. He said he thinks Murkowski has more support across Alaska than party activists give her credit.
The Senate seat has been held by a Murkowski since 1981; before Lisa Murkowski, it was her father, Republican Frank Murkowski. He appointed his daughter to succeed him in 2002 after he became governor. Murkowski won the seat in her own right in 2004.
Murkowski has received less than 50% of the vote in a general election in the Senate, and the need to build a coalition of support is nothing new to her. She won a run-in campaign in 2010 after losing that year’s Republican primaries to tea party favorite Joe Miller.
Murkowski overwhelmingly won her Republican primary against little-known opponents in 2016, the year Trump was elected.
Rosita Worl, an Alaska Native leader, referred to the 2010 primaries as “the debacle” and said the Alaska Natives had gathered around Murkowski and her bid. Worl, who attended Murkowski’s Juneau campaign event, said she’s not a Republican herself, but sees Murkowski as an Alaskan and said the senator has “always supported our issues.”
State Representative Zack Fields, a Democrat seeking reelection to a legislative seat in Anchorage, said there are yards in his district with signs for him and Murkowski. He said he disagrees with Murkowski about the “majority vote she has cast over her career.”
“But she has shown that she believes in democracy and will work with people to achieve things that are good for the citizens. That’s really in jeopardy now,” he said.
Fields called the uprising “horrific.”
“But what was frankly more terrifying than that is that so many elected officials and high-ranking so-called leaders would excuse it, justify it and otherwise encourage those who threaten democracy,” he said.
Cheney is the vice chair of the House selection committee investigating the Capitol riots. The uprising was a major concern during a June debate between Cheney and Republican challengers, including Hageman. Hageman said the commission “wasn’t focused on things that matter to the people of Wyoming.”
Going into the final stretch of her primary campaign, Cheney has not backed down. She released a video on Thursday with a closing message that reinforced her criticism of Trump.
“The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious,” Cheney said. “It preys on those who love their country. It is a door that Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans into abandoning their principles, sacrificing their freedom, justifying violence, ignoring the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
She added: “This is Donald Trump’s legacy, but it cannot be the future of our nation.”
In the interview, Murkowski said that Cheney has shown courage.
“I think she looked at this and said, ‘This isn’t about Liz Cheney,'” Murkowski said. “This is about… the difference between right and wrong. And she does her job under very challenging conditions. But I think she does it because she thinks she has to.”