Murkowski faces Trumpian GOP primary challenge from the far right — putting McConnell at odds with other Republicans
In the minds of Trumpistas, conservative Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska committed an unpardonable sin when, earlier this year, she voted "guilty" during former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial for "incitement to insurrection." Trump devotees are hoping to unseat Murkowski via a 2022 GOP senatorial primary, and Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka is campaigning on an overtly Trumpian platform — slamming Murkowski for failing for honor Trump,
CNN reporters Manu Raju and Alex Rogers explain, "Nearly a dozen years after overcoming a Tea Party-inspired challenge from the right, Murkowski again is facing a Republican seeking to claim the mantle as the most aggressive version of today's GOP — or in this case, the Trumpiest. Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, has offered herself as a vessel for the supporters of the former president, who won the state twice, as she lambasts Murkowski for her penchant for deal-cutting and breaking with Trump."
Raju and Rogers, in an article published by CNN's website on April 19, describe the Murkowski/Tshibaka competition as "the first proxy battle between Trump, whose top political advisers have joined Tshibaka's campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is backing the nearly 20-year incumbent." And they note that the Alaska GOP senatorial primary puts Republican senators and the National Republican Senatorial Committee "in an awkward position as they remain divided about the former president's role in the party" and "try to unify ahead of the 2022 midterms with control of Congress at stake."
In an interview with CNN, Tshibaka promoted the false claim that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election — in contrast to Murkowski, who acknowledged Joe Biden as the legitimate president-elect after the 2020 election.
Tshibaka told CNN, "We don't know the outcome of the 2020 election. In the 2020 election, there were questions raised in several states, and we're not allowed to look into the questions of those allegations to see what actually happened. I still have questions, and I think millions of other Americans do too."
In fact, now-President Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote, and cybersecurity experts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have stressed that the election was undeniably secure. Even former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump loyalist, said he saw no evidence of the type of widespread voter fraud that Trump alleged.
Raju and Rogers note, "There was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, which President Joe Biden won resoundingly with 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. And Trump and his allies' many lawsuits contesting the election were roundly rejected in court, including before conservative judges and the U.S. Supreme Court. But Tshibaka's willingness to cast doubt over the legitimacy of the election illustrates how those eager to win over the former president must adopt his baseless claims."
Voting to impeach Trump was not the first time Murkowski infuriated Trumpistas, who were disappointed when — along with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona — she voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. Trump loyalists have never forgiven Murkowski for helping Obamacare to survive or for voting against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Murkowski has not officially announced that she will seek reelection in 2022, but she filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on March 9. And Tshibaka is obviously looking forward to taking on Murkowski in the primary.
Murkowski told CNN, "We'll see how much is invested in the sense of time and energy and resources by those that think that I should have been a more loyal Trump supporter."
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