The Washington Times Weekly

Alaska Republican officials eye Palin to challenge Murkowski

- BY ALEX SWOYER

Alaska Republican Party officials are looking to former governor and tea party favorite Sarah Palin as a potential primary challenger to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has drawn their ire for her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachmen­t trial.

Of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Mr. Trump, Ms. Murkowski is the only one up for reelection in 2022.

It’s put a mama bear-size bull’s-eye on the three-term senator.

Republican Party leaders in her home state say their frustratio­n with Ms. Murkowski goes beyond the impeachmen­t vote, however. They are also irked by her pro-choice views and anti-Trump rhetoric. Conservati­ves point to her vote against confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and her support of the Affordable Care Act as further reasons to replace her.

“Everywhere I go, people have been disgruntle­d with Murkowski for a long time,” said Barbara Tyndall, GOP chair for Alaska’s 3rd District, which covers the North Pole and Chena Lakes. “Everybody is saying, ‘Yes, we need a primary challenger now.’”

Ms. Palin, who served as Alaska’s ninth governor and the Republican Party’s 2008 vice presidenti­al nominee on the ticket with John McCain, is an early favorite among conservati­ves. But she isn’t the only possible contender for the race. Alaska Gov. Michael James Dunleavy, who has been in office since 2018, is being prodded by some in the party.

Neither Ms. Palin nor Mr. Dunleavy responded to a request for comment about a primary challenge.

When the Republican Party state committee meets March 12, one item on the agenda will be to decide who they back in a primary against Ms. Murkowski, Ms. Tyndall said.

Ms. Murkowski has been serving in the Senate since 2002 when her father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, appointed her to finish his term after he won the governorsh­ip.

She has won three full terms to the Senate but has never won a majority of the vote. She won 48.6% of the vote in 2004, 39.5% in 2010 and 44.4% in 2016.

Ms. Murkowski, known as a moderate swing vote in the upper chamber, immediatel­y recognized her move to convict Mr. Trump could hamper her reelection.

“It’s not about me and my job is to — it’s truly about what we stand for,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill shortly after the vote. “There are consequenc­es with every vote and this was consequent­ial on many levels but I cannot allow my vote, the significan­ce of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel this is helpful for my political ambitions.”

The repercussi­ons back home included at least five of the state House districts approving resolution­s to censure Ms. Murkowski, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Members of the state party are also working on a censure resolution.

Ms. Murkowski wouldn’t be alone in being censured. Several lawmakers who backed impeachmen­t have been denounced by their home state GOPs, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Like Ms. Murkowski, Pennsylvan­ia Sen. Pat Toomey is also facing a pending censure.

Unlike Ms. Murkowski, Mr. Burr and Mr. Toomey are not seeking reelection in 2022.

Alaska also recently passed a measure approving rank choice voting, which allows people to vote for multiple candidates in order of preference rather than picking just one.

Ranked choice voting, however, is being challenged in the courts. The Alaskan Independen­ce Party argued the system violates the right of free political associatio­n.

Alaska is a state where there are more registered independen­t voters than Republican­s or Democrats, which makes a moderate like Ms. Murkowski a good candidate.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPH­S ?? Sen. Lisa Murkowski (right) has drawn ire from Alaska Republican­s for her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachmen­t trial. The state party is considerin­g former Gov. Sarah Palin as a possible challenger.
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPH­S Sen. Lisa Murkowski (right) has drawn ire from Alaska Republican­s for her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachmen­t trial. The state party is considerin­g former Gov. Sarah Palin as a possible challenger.
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