By SUZANNE DOWNING
Sen. Mitch McConnell has no excuse. The ads his political group is producing to attack Alaska Republican Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka are beyond the pale.
Campaign attacks intensify in October because as the election runway gets shorter, it takes a sharp message to catch voters’ attention and seal the deal. But the money being spent by McConnell and his Senate Leadership Fund to attack a fellow Republican — one who may win and join the Senate to be his colleague — should shock the sensibilities of all conservatives.
And it is shocking Alaskans, indeed. McConnell’s determination to destroy another Republican’s reputation is driving Alaskans away from the Republican Party because they don’t distinguish the difference between the state Republican Party and the national Republican establishment, which appears to be operating contrary to the wishes of Alaska conservatives.
It’s one thing for the campaigns to attack each other’s candidates. That’s the unfortunate part of campaigning for office, setting forth the “contrast” for voters.
This year, Alaska’s new open primary sent two Republican candidates for Senate to the general election ballot. It’s unprecedented in Alaska and a result of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s allies pushing Ballot Measure 2, so that Murkowski would not have to face a Republican primary and its Murkowski-wary voters again.
Alaskans have never before seen such ugliness from the GOP, which appears to be attacking its own candidate all the way into November.
Normally, once the August primary is over, the internecine battle stops, and Republicans gather behind their candidate. Not this year. The battle only intensified in the Republican world, thanks to the Murkowski ballot, allowing her to scoot past Republican voters and head to the general election without them.
Each of these Republican candidates — Murkowski and Tshibaka — brings with her a separate sensibility and set of values for how to legislate.
On the left hand, we have Murkowski, the elder warhorse of Alaska and American politics, hardened by years of election cycles and heir to the throne given to her by her father, former Sen. and Gov. Frank Murkowski. She knows how to run an effective campaign, and this year her campaign has done a masterful job, amassing millions in donations from around the country and following a clear message arc, where her deliverables in grants and pork are being delivered at just the right time. She has her own super PAC that does attack ads for her, and she has McConnell’s millions that have unleashed the hounds of hell on her Republican challenger.
On the right hand, we have Tshibaka, the upstart Republican who came home to Alaska after working in Washington, D.C. to raise her children in her homeland and to help keep the 49th state from going off the rails. She doesn’t have the millions, but she does have the support of former President Donald Trump, which is something money can’t buy.
Their personal stories are nearly as different as their politics. Murkowski is blue-blood, while Tshibaka comes from hard-scrabble working class, with parents who once lived in a tent to get by. Murkowski is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and anti-Trump. Tshibaka is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and pro-Trump.
Once McConnell untethered his $6.5 million to destroy Tshibaka, he decided to destroy her completely, and to send a message to any other Republican who would ever dare challenge Murkowski.
McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund has repeatedly lied about Tshibaka. He has accused her of fraud, and clipped and twisted her own words against her, sharing only a fragment of her story.
Tshibaka, who endured corrupt attacks against her when she was a government watchdog trying to clean up fraud in the federal government, is having her fight for fair government being used against her, as though she was the one who was committing fraud.
Alaskans don’t know the full story, but here are the Cliffs Notes: Tshibaka’s job in D.C. was to keep federal employees honest, and some of them filed complaints against her in retaliation. Following a full investigation, she was exonerated and was subsequently promoted.
McConnell and the Senate Leadership Fund are lying to Alaskans. And it’s only early October. We can’t wait to hear what trick McConnell pulls next.
This is McConnell using Republican donor money improperly against a fellow Republican, a complete violation of the Reagan Rule. This is also using Republican money against Alaska itself.
The McConnell scorched-earth war on Alaska seems like punishment against the Alaska Republican Party, which has endorsed Tshibaka, censured Murkowski, and asked Murkowski to leave the party and run under another political banner.
Why would McConnell do that, when both of these Republicans would still be part of the Republican caucus, and when the Alaska Senate race will not make one iota of difference in bringing the Senate back under Republican leadership? Why not focus on Ohio or Arizona, where seats could be flipped?
Although Murkowski is a 65% reliable Republican vote, when Tshibaka would probably be a 98% reliable Republican vote, they’re both Republican.
It’s become clear that Sen. Mitch McConnell is conducting a proxy war against former President Donald Trump and using Alaska as his political battlefield. McConnell is leaving carnage and destruction in his wake as he plays his political games with the former president.
Alaskans should take note of what these attack ads really represent.: The Swamp at its worst. They don’t represent Alaska values and they don’t improve the quality of our political dialogue. The Alaska Republican Party should step up immediately and denounce McConnell and his attack on their endorsed candidate. If the party doesn’t, then its districts and regions should do so, one at a time. If none do, then the party’s endorsements are worthless.
As for Murkowski, Alaska’s senior senator is complicit in McConnell’s offense against Alaska if she does not also denounce Monstrous Mitch’s campaign against a fellow Republican.
But perhaps Murkowski, too, wishes to destroy the Alaska Republican Party, and Kelly Tshibaka is merely collateral damage.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.