Across Alaska, eyes are on a close US Senate race

Republican Kelly Tshibaka leads the polls as of the evening of Nov. 9
A group of supporters of Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, waves...
A group of supporters of Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, waves signs on Nov. 8, 2022. Tshibaka was leading the polls, several percentage points ahead of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Election Night.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 10:46 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a contest that’s drawn eyes from across Alaska and the United States, the race for one of Alaska’s two U.S. Senate seats has only tightened since the first round of results was released Tuesday evening.

While the top two candidates watch and wait for results in a race that’s now within what many consider to be the margin of error — not even a couple of percentage points separate Tshibaka and Murkowski right now — it may be that the constituents of a third candidate, Democrat Patricia Chesbro, could prove to be a late deciding factor in the race.

As of Wednesday evening, Sen. Lisa Murkowski was sitting in second in the polls, within 1.5 percentage points of Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, who has been leading since the first data drop by the Division of Elections. When the first round came in, Tshibaka had a solid lead: she was up by about six percentage points, the same difference as when she and Murkowski came out of the primary, which Murkowski led instead.

Neither provided on-camera comment on Wednesday, but both expressed confidence and optimism during their watch parties on Tuesday night.

“One of the things I’ve noticed in the last couple weeks is a huge shift of support, even at the doors that are marked ‘undecided’ and, or, ‘center-left.’ And it seems like almost every door we go to now is supporting Kelly Tshibaka,” Tshibaka said during her event in Anchorage. “And that’s just, like, something I never expected to see. And I think a lot of that is because of the work that we’ve put in, in connecting with voters one on one. Alaskans want to be known, and they want to be heard.

“We’re not electing a politician, we’re electing a public servant,” she added, “and having somebody that works for us, and gets government to work for us instead of against us.”

Murkowski’s watch party was also in Anchorage, and she took the stage after several rounds of results had dropped on Tuesday.

“True to Alaska form, it’s like, ‘What’s happening? When are we going to know?’” Murkowski said. “Well, we’re going to know a little bit later. Let me tell you what we know right now. What we know right now is that we have confidence. We have confidence in Alaska.”

After speaking from her own event Tuesday night, Chesbro on Wednesday expressed hope that whoever wins the race will be a connector, not a divider, of Alaskans.

Those Alaskans who voted for Chesbro, however, may have a major role in this race with it being run as a ranked-choice voting contest, as it could come down to whom the voters who chose Chesbro first, rank second.

“If you vote for Sen. Murkowski, you’re acknowledging the kinds of things she’s done for the state, you’re acknowledging her seniority, you’re acknowledging in my opinion her calm demeanor and her willingness to work with others,” Chesbro said. “If you vote for Ms. Tshibaka, I think you’re looking for some kind of a change.

“I’m expecting that people would vote for Sen. Murkowski second after me,” she continued, “because I think we’re probably more closely aligned than I am with Ms. Tshibaka, but, it’s hard for me to know.”

Tshibaka’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but the candidate had said on Election Day that she intended to spend time with friends and family in the hours after polls closed.

As for Murkowski, her campaign declined a request for an interview Wednesday as well, but said she is also getting back to official work. A campaign manager said her team is watching results closely and is excited to see how it all unfolds.

Buzz Kelley, a Republican who formally suspended his campaign back in September, has about 3% of the vote as of Wednesday, having garnered more than 6,200 votes already.

Election results from the Div. of Elections, as they are released, can be found here.