Murkowski faces a pro-Trump Republican for US Senate in 2022

Kelly Tshibaka announced her run for U.S. Senate on Monday.
Kelly Tshibaka announced her run for U.S. Senate on Monday.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 8:30 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - If Sen. Lisa Murkowski chooses to run again for the U.S. Senate in 2022, she will face a fellow Republican who is more closely aligned politically with former President Donald Trump.

Kelly Tshibaka resigned as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration on Monday as she announced her Senate run, pitching herself as coming from a “new generation” of Alaska conservatives.

“I’m pro-Second Amendment, I’m pro-life and I’m pro-America first, always,” Tshibaka said during an interview with Alaska’s News Source.

The outgoing commissioner defended Trump’s record. She said questions still needed to be “vetted” about the integrity of the 2020 election despite dozens of federal judges finding no widespread cases of fraud.

“President Trump has been great for Alaska, and we need to remember that in both elections Alaska selected President Trump as our president,” Tshibaka said. “I don’t think it helps Alaska when our senator goes against and picks a fight with a president who’s benefiting our state.”

Murkowski was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol. She has been outspoken in her belief that the former president committed an impeachable act and that it was “appropriate” that he be barred from holding office again.

The Alaska Republican Party voted to censure Murkowski in early March, partly based on her impeachment vote, and pledged to run a primary challenger against her. Glenn Clary, the outgoing Alaska GOP chair, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Tshibaka will be supported by some heavyweights from the Trump 2020 campaign team. Politico reported that several members of the former president’s senior campaign staff had formed a firm and would work with Tshibaka.

While Trump has not endorsed anyone in the Alaska Senate race yet, a Tshibaka campaign official said she would welcome his seal of approval.

Tshibaka said she would fight for the “forgotten Alaskans” if she is elected and claimed Murkowski had consistently voted for “D.C. insiders.”

Mary Ann Pruitt, who did media relations work for Murkowski during her 2016 campaign, will be Tshibaka’s campaign manager. Former Alaska GOP Chair Randy Ruedrich is set to be Tshibaka’s treasurer.

Murkowski, who has not officially announced if she will run again, has her own high profile supporters in Alaska. Fellow Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan told ABC News last week that he would support her potential reelection bid. On Monday, Sullivan’s office said that is still the case.

Former Republican state Sen. Lesil McGuire also endorsed Murkowski on Monday. McGuire served with Murkowski in the Alaska Legislature and said her seniority in the U.S. Senate would benefit Alaska if she runs again.

“As a small western state, seniority is the one thing that we’re guaranteed under the Senate structure and the Constitution, and availing ourselves of that is critical,” McGuire said.

Kristina Woolston, the external affairs manager for Donlin Gold, also endorsed Murkowski. Woolston hit back at claims Tshibaka made on her campaign website that Murkowski has not defended oil and gas jobs in Alaska.

Woolston said Murkowski has been a tireless advocate for resource development and rural Alaska during her tenure as Alaska’s senior senator.

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