The Alaska Republican Party voted Saturday to censure Sen. Lisa Murkowski and pledged to support a primary challenger against her. Murkowski was one of seven Republican Senators who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Kris Warren, head of the Anchorage Republican Party group, noted, “She’s repeatedly spoken out against President Trump over the years in spite of all the great accomplishments he had that helped the country and certainly helped Alaska.”
Former President Donald Trump has already promised to campaign against Murkowski. The senator faces reelection in 2022.
Trump told Politco, “I will not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski.”
Last month, Trump shared in a statement, “Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership.”
Many Republicans are also opposed to Murkowski’s reelection because of her support to confirm Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior. Haaland’s radical views stand at odds with the nominee choices of Trump, whose cabinet members included strong conservatives such as Dr. Ben Carson and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated he will continue to support Murkowski. In a CNN interview on Mar. 1, McConnell answered he was not worried about Murkowski’s reelection despite Trump’s opposition.
McConnell may not be worried, but Murkowski likely is after her party’s latest move. Momentum has now shifted from her criticism of Trump to the state’s criticism of Murkowski.
No Republican primary Senate candidates have been noted yet. Potential candidates include Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Both have served as strong Trump supporters.
Whoever runs against Murkowski will face a tough challenge. Politico recently noted:
Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, candidates of all parties will compete in an open primary, with the top four finishers advancing to the general election. That means Murkowski won’t face the pressure of a Republican nomination battle, such as the one she had in 2010. That year, Murkowski lost the GOP primary to a right-wing activist, Joe Miller, but then waged a successful write-in campaign to win reelection.
Instead of a traditional primary system, Murkowski’s opponents will seek to become one of the top four choices as Alaska Senator. The top four choices then face one another in November.
The competition could backfire by splitting conservative votes among two or three Republican candidates. In that case, a Democrat could win, despite Alaska’s position as a strongly conservative state. Whoever Trump and the Alaska Republican Party supports better be competitive enough to overcome a split vote, or the Last Frontier could become left-controlled territory.