By KELLY TSHIBAKA
When 49-year Congressman Don Young passed away on March 18, he left a hole the size of the Yukon in the fabric of Alaska. With his unvarnished way of expressing himself and the legacy he left in the halls of Congress, he was one of a kind and Alaskan through and through.
Alaska has depended on Don Young’s leadership in the House of Representatives since 1973, but now thanks to Lisa Murkowski, we will be without any representation at all until mid-August.
For the next five months, there will be no member of the House from Alaska because of “Ballot Measure 2,” which was a complete restructuring of our elections systems passed narrowly by voter referendum in 2020. The scheme mandates an open, all-party primary in which voters choose one candidate, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a general election. In that general election, voters have the option of ranking the four remaining candidates, and a winner will be declared following a complicated process that reallocates votes from candidates who are eliminated during the tabulation.
Because of statutory timelines and the time needed for printing and distributing ballots, it’s clear that Alaska will have no member of the House until mid-August. Ballot Measure 2 replaced the existing process that called for a single all-party election. Under that method, if a candidate received 50 percent plus one vote, Alaska would have had a new representative in mid-June – fully two months earlier than we will have one now.
Ballot Measure 2 is widely accepted to have been put in place as an incumbent-protection plan for Lisa Murkowski, who would certainly have been unable to survive in a straight Republican primary election this year. Her supporters point out that she lost a Republican primary once before, in 2010, and then won re-election in an improbable write-in campaign in the general election anyway. But that was then, and this is now.
The 2010 election was before President Trump enacted many policies which benefited Alaska tremendously, and also before Murkowski opposed Trump’s election in 2016, his re-election in 2020, and many of his efforts, like the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
It also was before Murkowski enabled all the horribly damaging policies of the Biden administration by rubber-stamping over 90 percent of his cabinet appointments, including casting the tie breaking vote to advance the confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who has led the charge on Biden’s assault on Alaska’s energy and resource workers and businesses. And it was before the Alaska Republican Party censured Murkowski and instructed her not to refer to herself as a Republican in Alaska any longer.
Murkowski’s team knew she would not survive her re-election bid in 2022 if the rules were not changed for her benefit.
So along came Ballot Measure 2, which was drafted and championed by political operative Scott Kendall, who previously served as counsel to Murkowski’s 2010 write-in campaign and subsequently was campaign coordinator in her most recent re-election in 2016.
So, there can be no doubt that the massive restructuring of our election process was done by Murkowski’s team for Murkowski’s benefit, and not for the best interest of the people of Alaska.
Once again, we see Murkowski’s concern for herself prevailing over the interests of the people. She was gifted the Senate seat by her father, Frank Murkowski, to fill out his own unexpired term when he was elected governor. In 2010, she ignored the clearly stated will of the Alaskan people by navigating around her primary election loss through a write-in campaign, despite promising to honor the outcome of the primary. And now she has countenanced a new election system that will leave all of Alaska undefended in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly half a year.
It seems that above all, what drives Lisa Murkowski is her desperation to hold onto the Senate seat she inherited from her father, at any cost.
And as a result, at a time when President Biden is running roughshod over Alaska, continuously dismantling our resource industries and destroying thousands of jobs, we are left with no one in the lower chamber of Congress to try to safeguard our interests and fight for us.
We Alaskans are used to the Lower 48 forgetting us, passing us over, and leaving us without a voice. It’s particularly devastating that this time, we don’t have a voice because of the self-serving choices of our own U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski.
Kelly Tshibaka is a born-and-raised Alaskan, and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alaska who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and the Alaska Republican Party.