Trump-backed Alaska hopeful formally files Senate candidacy

Kelly Tshibaka, who received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, officially filed her candidacy for the US Senate on Monday in the race against the incumbent Republican.

Tshibaka will face U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who came to Tshibaka’s attention at a press conference after Tshibaka filed her case with the state’s Division of Elections in Anchorage.

“Lisa Murkowski forgot about us because she cares more about being popular with her friends in Washington, DC,” said Tshibaka, also a Republican.

Tshibaka claimed Murkowski was helping the agenda of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, with his vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson – whom Tshibaka described as a “left-wing justice” – to the US Supreme Court. At the same time, she criticized Murkowski for not supporting two Trump nominees for court, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Murkowski opposed it and later voted “present” to Kavanaugh’s nomination. She voted to confirm Barrett in 2020, after earlier saying she did not support nominating a candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy so close to a presidential election.

Tshibaka chastised Murkowski for supporting other Biden candidates, including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“These are not the votes an Alaskan senator should cast,” Tshibaka said. “Murkowski has made bad decisions like this over and over again, and we Alaskans continue to pay the price for his popularity in Washington, DC”

Tshibaka is a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration. She previously worked in the offices of the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice before joining the administration of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, according to her resume.

A message sent to Murkowski’s campaign seeking comment was not immediately returned on Monday. His campaign sent out a press release showing support from more than a dozen Alaskan mayors and other officials who endorse Murkowski.

When Murkowski filed in November, he was asked to run against a Trump-backed opponent.

Murkowski told reporters at the time that there will be “a lot of people on the outside who will shoot me, who will suggest that I’m no good for Alaskans. I’ll say that directly to people in this state.

Murkowski, who has held the Senate seat since late 2002, had around six times as much money as Tshibaka at the end of 2021. The latest quarterly fundraising reports – reflecting the first three months of this year – are expected around the middle of the month. Tshibaka’s totals will include money raised from a fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump said he would campaign for Tshibaka after vowing revenge against Murkowski, who voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial and called on Trump to step down after the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on the U.S. Capitol.

“He said he would participate in a rally for us, and I think that would be great for voter turnout,” Tshibaka said.

Trump also endorsed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who is one of 48 candidates vying to fill the remainder of U.S. Representative Don Young’s term after his death last month. Palin was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

When asked if the two big names of Trump and Palin could eclipse his campaign, Tshibaka said that was separate from the Senate campaign.

“I’m completely focused on Lisa Murkowski and the damage she’s done and the fact that she’s primarily responsible for empowering Biden, helping him every step of the way,” she said.

In addition to Murkowski and Tshibaka, 10 other candidates have so far come forward to run for the Senate. Under a new electoral system approved by Alaska voters in 2020, the top four voters in the August primary, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election, where preferential-choice voting will be used.

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