By RICK WHITBECK / POWER THE FUTURE
In the battle for the United States Senate, all eyes are Alaska. The next 16 months promise to be the most expensive and exciting in the state’s 60-year history. Alaska’s 20-year incumbent, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faces a primary challenge from Kelly Tshibaka, who is running with the full support of former President Trump.
With nearly 25 years on Alaska’s Republican Party’s State Central Committee, I know how Alaskans view the policies and positional authority of our three-member congressional delegation. Having interviewed both candidates on my weekly radio program, I have seen how each candidate is approaching this campaign.
After two decades in the Senate, Murkowski has earned a reputation as a barrier-breaking, deal-making, party-crossing, legislation-passing and Alaska-first lawmaker. Even those not enamored with her left-leaning views on social issues find her incredibly knowledgeable. She has been a leader on energy and natural resources that make up the vast majority of Alaska’s annual GDP, employ over one-quarter of our private-sector workers and provide the United States with the sixth-most oil and gas output in the nation.
After a historic write-in campaign over a tea party challenger in 2010, a near-romp in her reelection in 2016 and the newly-implemented ranked-choice voting starting in 2022, it is a mistake to ever underestimate Murkowski.
Beltway pundits cite her repeated entanglements with Trump as her greatest vulnerability, especially her vote for the former president’s impeachment. Trump has vowed to unseat her, throwing his support full behind her challenger.
Tshibaka returned to Alaska in 2019 after a decade in various jobs Washington, D.C. Since launching her campaign, she has amassed numerous Republican Party affiliate endorsements and basked in the Trump glow.
With both candidates gearing up for the long haul, it is worth noting how our state prioritizes energy and natural resource policy. Most Alaska voters support a balanced approach between environmental stewardship and responsible resource development. While environmentalists disagree, most Alaskans do not support a “wildlife above human life” philosophy. The health of the energy industry and Alaska’s economy are too inextricably linked.
That brings us to some of the other fault lines in this primary.