Trump’s Least Favorite GOP Senator Survives Again in Alaska

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Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

When Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted to convict Donald Trump during his impeachment trial following the January 6 uprising, she knew full well that it could end her political career.

Less than two years later, Alaskans voted to return Murkowski to Washington for a fourth six-year term: she defeated her Trump-backed rival, fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka.

Under Alaska’s system of voting by choice, Murkowski won a majority of the vote after supporters of Democratic nominee Pat Chesbro, who finished third, ranked the incumbent senator as their second choice.

That system, as well as Alaska’s elimination of a closed partisan primary, was instrumental in weathering a zealous Republican uprising, not only for its vote to convict Trump, but also for years of voting that has enraged conservative believers — such as her opposition to repeal Obamacare and to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

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Murkowski won over large numbers of independent-minded voters in Alaska with her track record on infrastructure projects and local issues, demonstrating the limited appeal of a MAGA-fueled grievance campaign even in a state Trump ran twice.

“I’ve always been a coalition builder,” Murkowski told The Daily Beast during an October interview in Anchorage. “Every campaign I’ve been part of has been about how we can broaden our community here — not just to cater to a partisan base.”

Murkowski’s victory is a blow to Trump, and Tshibaka’s loss will be one of the biggest failures of his 2022 revenge campaign to oust Republicans who have broken with him. It’s also a victory for Trump’s greatest foe in the GOP: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

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While Alaska was irrelevant to the battle for control of the Senate, McConnell, through his super PAC, spent nearly $7 million on TV ads attacking Tshibaka for her record as a government official. His involvement infuriated many Republicans in Alaska and Tshibaka himself, who called his efforts “un-American” and said McConnell was trying to buy a vote he could control.

Although Tshibaka raised more than $4 million, her allies in the Trump wing of the party never contributed the money to help her water down McConnell’s air war. In the home stretch of the race, as Tshibaka’s momentum faded, Murkowski — intentionally or not — fooled her many conservative haters by Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, for the Alaska House race.

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With her win, Murkowski will spend another six years taking votes that sometimes frustrate members of both parties, including the Republican who spent so much money to keep her in office. Regardless of who controls the White House or Senate, Murkowski is poised to remain a key player in brokerage deals like the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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