FIRST ON FOX – The Republican Senate candidate challenging GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska argues that the longtime senator has voted to confirm “radical leftists” and then acts surprised when those confirmed take actions detrimental to her home state.
Kelly Tshibaka, the former Alaska commissioner of administration who enjoys the backing of former President Trump, charged Tuesday in a statement shared first with Fox News that Murkowski’s “the Queen of Qualms.”
“She votes to confirm radical leftists and then acts shocked when they behave like radical leftists! She even predicts that they’ll be harmful to Alaska, but votes for them anyway,” Tshibaka emphasized. “And then she issues a press release pretending to worry about all the damage being done to Alaska without ever mentioning that she voted to confirm the person in the first place. In several cases, she was the tie-breaking vote that put them in office!”
Former Alaska commissioner of administration is supported by former President Trump as she primary challenges GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in the 2022 midterm elections.
(Tshibaka Senate campaign)
Tshibaka’s campaign points to Murkowski’s April 2013 vote in favor of confirming Sally Jewell as Department of Interior secretary in President Obama’s second term.
Murkowski had initially held up the nomination because of the Interior Department’s opposition to putting a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The senator had pushed for construction of a gravel road through the wilderness area to give people in the remote community of King Cove easier access to a nearby all-weather airport for medical emergencies.
After the Interior Department agreed to prepare a report on the necessity of the road, Murkowski supported the nomination, which passed the Senate 87-11.
Noting that Jewell had not “run the full gamut” of Interior Department issues during her career, Murkowski said “perhaps that’s a good thing, because perhaps she is able to look through these issues with a fresh perspective, a different lens,” according to a Washington Post report.
Eight months later Jewell rejected the road and two weeks ago, on the eighth anniversary of that rejection, Murkowski said in a statement that “Sally Jewell made a horrible decision eight years ago, and it is the good people of King Cove who have paid the price ever since.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asks questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS)
Tshibaka’s campaign also points to Murkowski’s crucial Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee vote last year to confirm President Biden’s nominee for Interior secretary, then-Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico. Murkowski’s support helped Haaland make history as the first Native American to serve as Interior secretary, but the nominee’s past opposition to new leases for drilling oil and gas on federal lands were very troubling in a carbon-rich state like Alaska.
Murkowski noted at the time that “Alaska Natives in particular – are enormously proud to have a Native American nominated to this position. It is truly a historic nomination and they believe Alaska Native issues can be elevated to one of the highest levels of government.”
But she added that “I am going to place my trust in Representative Haaland and her team, despite some very real misgivings. And Representative Haaland, if you are listening, know that I intend to work with you because I want you to be successful and need you to be successful, but I am also going to hold you to your commitments to ensure that Alaska is allowed to prosper.”
But in late November, after an Interior Department report called for reductions in gas and oil production and to “restrict access and make energy production less viable in federal areas,” the senator called the move “especially upsetting” and urged Democrats to “drop the harmful resource provisions.”
In this July 14, 2021, file photo, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland meets with young people from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe after a ceremony of the disinterred remains of nine Native American children who died more than a century ago while attending a government-run school in Pennsylvania.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
The Tshibaka campaign also spotlighted Murkowski’s 2011 vote to confirm Sharon Gleason as the first woman from Alaska on the federal bench. Later rulings by Gleason and the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska that placed limits on the oil and gas industry were heavily criticized by many in the state.
And they spotlighted Murkowski’s vote last February to confirm former Iowa governor and former Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to steer the department once again in the Biden administration. Vilsack later reversed a Trump administration policy that relaxed federal restrictions on road construction on federal lands.
Tshibaka charged that “Murkowski’s actions speak louder than words–she is obviously more concerned about her popularity among the D.C. insiders than she is about what’s best for Alaska.”
Murkowski, a moderate Republican with a history of working across the aisle to achieve bipartisan agreements, was one of seven GOP lawmakers in the Senate to vote to convict the former president last February in his impeachment trial on charges of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. And she’s the only one of those seven running for reelection in this year’s midterms.
Trump’s vowed to come to Alaska to campaign against the senator. Earlier this year he endorsed Tshibaka, and a couple of leading members of Trump’s 2020 presidential reelection inner circle are working as senior advisers on Tshibaka’s team.
Tshibaka is headed to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, in February, where Trump’s scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for her campaign.
Murkowski’s call for Trump to resign following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and her vote to convict Trump on charges he incited the attack weren’t the first times she’s raised his ire. The senator voted against a Republican-backed plan in 2017 to repeal the national health care law known as Obamacare, and a year later she opposed confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was nominated by Trump.
This isn’t the first time Murkowski’s faced a challenging reelection.
The senator lost the GOP primary in 2010 reelection to Tea Party-supported challenger Joe Miller. Murkowski then launched a write-in campaign and successfully won the general election. She topped Miller again in 2016 in a three-way contest. But in all three of her successful Senate elections and reelections (2004, 2010 and 2016) she’s never captured a majority of vote.
Even though she didn’t announce for reelection until November, Murkowski was fundraising all during 2021. She hauled in nearly $1.1 million during the July-September third quarter of fundraising, with roughly $3.2 million cash on hand. Tshibaka brought in $465,000 during the third quarter, with nearly $300,000 in her campaign coffers.
The 2022 Senate showdown in Alaska will have some new rules. Alaskans, in a ballot measure last year, changed how they run their elections. The scrapped party primaries, and going forward the top four vote-getters in a nonpartisan primary will advance to the general election, where ranked-choice voting will be used to determine the winner.
Pundits speculate that could help Murkowski, who enjoys strong name recognition.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.