Sarah Palin Loses Another House Bid And Sen. Murkowski Defeats Trump-Backed Challenger

Topline

Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) defeated former governor and close Trump ally Sarah Palin in a race for Alaska’s sole House seat, according to state election officials, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) fended off a challenge from Trump-endorsed Republican Kelly Tshibaka.

Key Facts

The Associated Press projected Murkowski and Peltola as the winners Wednesday evening, after Alaska election officials revealed that Peltola led Palin by more than 24,000 votes in the final round of runoffs, and Murkowski led Tshibaka by over 18,000 votes.

With 99% of ballots counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Peltola held a significant lead over Palin, with 48.7% of the first-round votes—nearly 23 percentage points above Palin’s 25.8%, as well as Republican candidate Nick Begich’s 23.4%, according to the Associated Press.

Since no candidate received an outright majority, however, Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system sent the race into a second round of counting between the top two vote-getters—Peltola and Palin—with the ballots cast for Begich and Libertarian candidate Chris Bye redistributed based on voters’ second choices on the ballot.

Palin, Alaska’s former governor who lost her 2008 bid as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, ran on an unabashedly pro-MAGA campaign blaming the “radical left” for staggering inflation and a swell of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and receiving an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, one of her biggest allies.

Peltola, a former state legislator, became the first Democrat to represent Alaska in 50 years and the first Alaska Native elected to Congress when she defeated Palin in a special election in August to fill the seat vacated by longtime Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), putting her in Washington D.C. for the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January.

Tangent

Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system allows multiple candidates in the same party to appear on the ballot for the same race. There were three Republicans in the Senate race: Murkowski, Tshibaka and Buzz Kelley. As of Wednesday afternoon, Murkowski—a 20-year incumbent and longtime moderate—had held a narrow 43.3% to 42.7% lead over Tshibaka in first-choice votes with 99% of the vote counted, according to the Associated Press. Democratic candidate Patricia Chesbro took in another 10.3% of the vote, and Kelley received 2.9%.

News Peg

Trump was active in both Alaska races. He endorsed Palin’s congressional run, after the former governor served as a vocal Trump ally in his 2016 campaign and a defender of Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims following the 2020 race. Meanwhile, Murkowski earned Trump and his allies’ ire after she became one of only seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump following the January 6 Capitol insurrection last year: The state Republican Party censured Murkowski, and during a rally in July for Tshibaka, Trump called Murkowski a “piece of,” and mouthed the word “garbage.” But Palin and Tshibaka are now the latest Trump-backed candidates to struggle in key midterm races, as the GOP’s hopes of regaining control of the Senate and securing a strong lead in the House were dashed. Trump allies also lost Senate races in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona, and Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidates lost in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of the 39 key races with Trump-endorsed candidates, his chosen candidates won 18 and lost 16, Axios reported. Still, a few Trump-backed candidates won crucial races, including Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Key Background

Palin advanced to the November election in August, three months after she received Trump’s endorsement, with the former president calling her a “wonderful patriot.” After her loss in the August special election, Palin told former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in an interview on “War Room: Pandemic” that the state’s ranked-choice voting system is a “very, very potentially fraught with fraud system” that allows “liberals to skip on in.” It was her first dabble into national politics in more than 12 years, after McCain’s loss to former President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. She had also faced her fair share of controversies toward the end of her three years as Alaska’s governor, leading up to her resignation in 2009 amid a string of ethics complaints—which she dismissed as “frivolous” and politically motivated.

Surprising Fact

In a rare move, Murkowski, much the moderate Republican, endorsed Peltola in her race against Palin just two weeks before the midterm elections earlier this month, saying she would rank her first in the state’s ranked-choice voting system. Peltola then endorsed Murkowski, pledging to rank her first when she voted.

Sfurther Reading

Tune in on Wednesday, Nov. 23, for our live coverage of Alaska elections results (Alaska Public Media)

Sarah Palin Loses In Special Alaska House Race, But Is Back On Ballot In November (Forbes)

Alaska GOP Censures McConnell For ‘Divisive’ Attack s Against Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Tshibaka (Forbes)

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