Murkowski draws first GOP primary challenger in race to be defined by Trump

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday drew her first Republican primary challenger ahead of the 2022 election, signaling an early start to a race likely to feature former President Donald Trump front and center.

Kelly Tshibaka, the former commissioner of Alaska’s department of administration, is jumping into the race with a stringent anti-establishment message targeted at Ms. Murkowski and “D.C. insiders.”

“We know what Washington, D.C., thinks about Alaska,” Mrs. Tshibaka said in a video declaring her candidacy. “We’re here for their benefit, and we won’t put up much of a fight. After nearly 20 years in D.C., Lisa Murkowski thinks the same way.”

The announcement comes as Ms. Murkowski, a moderate Republican, has filed paperwork to seek reelection next year. Her path to maintaining the Senate seat she has held since 2002 is increasingly uncertain, especially since Ms. Murkowski has increasingly angered Mr. Trump and his allies.

Earlier this year, Ms. Murkowski was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict the former president after his impeachment for allegedly inciting a mob of supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol. Of the seven Republicans, Ms. Murkowski is the only one running for reelection in 2022.

Although, Mr. Trump will not be on the ballot in Alaska that race will be defined by his presence and brand of Republicanism. The former president admitted as much last month when he ruled out the possibility of endorsing Ms. Murkowski.

“She represents her state badly and her country even worse,” Mr. Trump said. “I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad senator.”

While Mr. Trump has yet to endorse a challenger formally, Mrs. Tshibaka is angling for his support.

“Nothing scares the D.C. political insiders more than the thought of a strong, independent Alaskan leader in their ranks,” she said on Monday. “One they can’t bully. One they can’t control. One they can’t silence.”

Ms. Murkowski, though, has faced tough political battles in the past. In 2010, the senator lost the Republican primary for her seat to a Tea Party insurgent. She won the election reelection anyway after waging a write-in campaign against both the GOP and Democratic nominees.

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