Kelly Tshibaka, backed by Trump, officially files for Senate run

A white woman in a blue blouse speaks in front of a podium in front of several other men
Kelly Tshibaka, then the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, answers questions on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s newest budget proposal on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Kelly Tshibaka, who has received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, on Monday officially filed to run as a candidate for U.S. Senate in the race against the incumbent Republican.

Tshibaka will face off against U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who drew Tshibaka’s aim during a news conference after Tshibaka filed with the state Division of Elections in Anchorage.

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

Tshibaka claimed Murkowski was helping the agenda of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, with her vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson — whom Tshibaka described as a “leftist judge” — to the U.S. Supreme Court. At the same time, she criticized Murkowski for not backing two Trump nominees to the court, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

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

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

“These are not the votes that a senator from Alaska should be casting,” Tshibaka said. “Murkowski has made poor decisions like this over and over, and we, the people of Alaska, continue to pay the price for her popularity in Washington, D.C.”

Tshibaka is a former commissioner in the Alaska Department of Administration. She formerly worked in the offices of inspector general for the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice before joining the administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, according to her resume.

A message sent to Murkowski’s campaign seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday. Her campaign did send a news release showing the support of more than a dozen Alaska mayors and other officials who are endorsing Murkowski.

When Murkowski filed for office in November, she was asked about running against a Trump-backed opponent.

Murkowski told reporters at the time there will be “plenty of people on the outside who will be gunning for me, who will suggest that I am not right for Alaskans. I would put that directly to the people of this state.”

Murkowski, who has held the Senate seat since late 2002, had about six times the cash on hand over Tshibaka at the end of 2021. The latest quarterly fundraising reports — reflecting the first three months of this year — are due around mid-month. Tshibaka’s totals will include money collected from a fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump has 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 resign after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“He said that he’ll come up into a rally for us, and I think that’ll be great for voter turnout,” Tshibaka said.

Trump also has endorsed former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is one of 48 candidates running to fill the remainder of U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term after he died last month. Palin was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

When asked if the two big personalities of Trump and Palin could overshadow her campaign, Tshibaka said that is separate from the Senate campaign.

“I’m completely focused on Lisa Murkowski and the damage that she’s done and the fact that she serves as Biden’s chief enabling officer, helping him every step of the way,” she said.

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

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