They come from the most prominent Republican families in their state. They have been among the GOP’s most vocal critics of former President Donald Trump. And after the January 6 uprising, they supported his removal.
But for all their similarities, the political fortunes of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and U.S. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming are set to diverge on Tuesday when they will each be on the ballot in a closely held primary election. monitored.
Cheney faces a daunting prospect in her effort to fend off Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, increasingly considering a life beyond Capitol Hill that could include a possible presidential campaign. Murkowski, however, is expected to drop out of his primary and is already planning to run in November’s general election.
The expected results stem at least in part from the nuanced policy of each state. Wyoming is a Republican stronghold, handing Trump its strongest victory of any state in the 2020 campaign. Alaska, meanwhile, has a history of rewarding candidates with an independent streak.
But Murkowski has an added advantage in the way the election is going in Alaska this year. Win-win party primaries, like the one Cheney faces, have been replaced with a voter-approved process in which all candidates are listed together. The four with the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, qualify for the general election in which preferential voting will be used.
Murkowski is taking advantage of avoiding a Republican primary, “that she would have had a zero percent — I mean zero percent — chance of winning,” Alaska pollster Ivan Moore said.
Murkowski has 18 challengers in his primary, the most prominent being Republican Kelly Tshibaka, whom Trump has endorsed. The Alaska Democratic Party, meanwhile, endorsed Pat Chesbro, a retired educator.
In an interview, Murkowski insisted she would be among the candidates to emerge from the primary and said her success requires, in part, forming a coalition.
“That’s kind of my forte, that’s what I do,” she said.
For his part, Trump was harsh in his assessment of Murkowski. At a rally in Anchorage last month with Tshibaka and Sarah Palin, whom he endorsed for Alaska’s only House seat, he called Murkowski “the worst.” I class it #1 bad.
Trump took part in a teleconference for Tshibaka on Thursday while Murkowski mingled with supporters at the opening of a campaign office in Juneau, which boasted a spread that included moose chili and a smoked salmon dip. Murkowski said Trump was not a factor in her campaign.
“He’s going to do what he’s going to do,” she said. But she told her supporters that the campaign would be difficult.
Murkowski was censured by Alaska Republican Party leaders last year for numerous grievances, including the impeachment vote and criticism of Trump and his support for the nomination of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Tuckerman Babcock, a former Republican Party chairman in the state who is running for the state Senate, said Murkowski had lost the support of many Republicans in Alaska, whom he called “political reality on a multi-year record”.
Alaska Republicans are “nearly unanimous in their opposition to Lisa Murkowski,” he said. “Are they divided on other issues? Sure.”
Babcock said the new electoral system allows candidates to “identify” with a party and is not an improvement over the old party primary process.
Chuck Kopp, a former Republican state lawmaker, is optimistic about the new system. Kopp lost his 2020 Republican primary after being part of a bipartisan state House majority made up largely of Democrats.
“It’s just the fringe that clings like a death grip to a failing paradigm, and that paradigm is extreme partisanship at all costs,” he said. “I think Alaska is going to take a leadership role in moving away from that. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Kopp said while he hasn’t always been supportive of Murkowski, she has been “fearless when it matters to this country.”
“I think she showed that personality cults aren’t conservative, conspiracy theories aren’t conservative, and treating politics like a religion isn’t conservative,” Kopp said. He said he thinks Murkowski has more support throughout Alaska than party activists give him credit for.
The Senate seat has been held by a Murkowski since 1981; before Lisa Murkowski, it was her father, Republican Frank Murkowski. He named his daughter to succeed him in 2002 after becoming governor. Murkowski won the full seat in 2004.
Murkowski didn’t get 50% of the vote in a general Senate election, and the need to build a coalition of support is nothing new to her. She won an election campaign in 2010 after losing that year’s Republican primary to tea party favorite Joe Miller.
Murkowski won his Republican primary overwhelmingly against little-known opponents in 2016, the year Trump was elected.
Rosita Worl, an Alaska Native leader, called the 2010 primary a “debacle” and said Alaska Natives rallied behind Murkowski and his written offer. Worl, who attended Murkowski’s campaign event in Juneau, said she was not a Republican herself, but considered Murkowski an Alaskan and said the senator had “always supported our problems”.
State Representative Zack Fields, a Democrat seeking re-election to a legislative seat in Anchorage, said there were yards in his district with signs for him and Murkowski. He said he disagreed with Murkowski on the “majority of votes she cast over her career.”
“But she has shown that she believes in democracy and that she will work with people to achieve things that are good for citizens. That is actually in danger right now,” he said.
Fields called the insurgency “horrible”.
“But what was even more terrifying than that was that so many elected officials and so-called high-ranking leaders excuse it, justify it and otherwise embolden those who threaten democracy,” he said. .
Cheney is the vice chairman of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot. The insurrection was a big issue during a June debate between Cheney and Republican challengers, including Hageman. Hageman said the committee was “not focused on things important to the people of Wyoming.”
Entering the home stretch of his primary campaign, Cheney did not back down. She posted a video Thursday with a closing message reinforcing her criticism of Trump.
“The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious,” Cheney said. “He attacks those who love their country. It is a door opened by Donald Trump to manipulate Americans into abandoning their principles, sacrificing their freedom, justifying violence, ignoring the decisions of our courts and the rule of law.
She added, “It’s Donald Trump’s legacy, but it can’t be our nation’s future.”
In the interview, Murkowski said Cheney showed courage.
“I think she looked at that and said, this isn’t about Liz Cheney,” Murkowski said. “It’s about…the difference between right and wrong. And she’s doing her job under very difficult circumstances. But I think she’s doing it because she believes she has to.