Kelly Tshibaka

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has a new challenger. Kelly Tshibaka announced her candidacy on Monday for Alaska’s U.S. Senate race in 2022.

Tshibaka recently resigned as the Commissioner of Administration for Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a role she has served in since January 2019. She resigned to run against Murkowski.

“We know what Washington D.C. thinks about Alaska: We’re here for their benefit, and we won’t put up much of a fight. After nearly 20 years in D.C., Lisa Murkowski thinks the same way,” Tshibaka said the announcement video released on Monday morning. “But you know what? Nothing scares the D.C. political insiders more than the thought of a strong, independent Alaskan leader in their ranks. One they can’t bully. One they can’t control. One they can’t silence.”

The attorney and mother of five says she represents a new generation of Alaska conservatives.

“I believe in a better future for Alaska. One we can rise up together and rebuild,” Tshibaka said. “I’m running for the Alaskans who believe government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. The D.C. insiders need to be held accountable to us.”

Murkowski is the epitome of nepotism in politics. She was preceded by her father, Frank Murkowski, in office and then was appointed by him to the U.S. Senate seat in 2002 when he became Governor. She almost lost re-election in 2010 when Joe Miller beat her in the Republican primary but won the general election. Alaska has a sore loser law preventing a candidate from running as an independent when losing their primary.

She ran a write-in campaign skirting the law, defeating Miller by four points (a little more than 10,000 votes) in a three-way race in the general election.

Last fall, Alaska narrowly passed an initiative that does away with party primaries and instead offers a jungle primary that sends the top four to the general election where voters can then rank their choices, in a process similar to Maine’s. This applies to state legislative, gubernatorial, and congressional races.

It makes it impossible to knock Murkowski out in the primary, but I have to wonder how RCV will impact her considering she only pulled 44 percent in 2020 in a four-way race without RCV.

Who knows? I haven’t watched Alaska politics closely since Sarah Palin was Governor, but there is a definite independent streak in the state, and its electoral politics can be unpredictable.

It’s a race to watch.

Watch Tshibaka’s campaign announcement below:

Note: I did not realize until after publication that Alaska voters passed a jungle primary process and ranked-choice voting last fall. The article has been updated to reflect that.

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