Both GOP Sen. Lisa Murkwoski and her Republican challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, are expected to advance past Tuesday’s primary thanks to the state’s new top four primary system. But that hasn’t stopped them from campaigning hard ahead of that vote.
Under the new primary system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the November election. Murkowski, Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro, a retired educator who has the state party’s endorsement, are expected to advance. It’s not clear who could take the fourth spot in November.
Despite that expectation, Murkowski and Tshibaka are still hitting the campaign trail and the airwaves, viewing Tuesday’s primary as an opportunity to show their relative strength.
“Placement in the primary is huge for the outcome of the general election because it helps to build momentum, and it helps give confidence to the voters about how the election is going,” Tshibaka, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, recently told the Anchorage Daily News.
Murkowski’s campaign spokesperson Shea Siegert likened the primary to an Olympic qualifying round.
“We’re going to still be focused on the general,” Siegert said, “Like when you qualify in the Olympics, you really want to come in first in your event. Our aim is to qualify and then win in the November election.”
Murkowski has spent nearly $1.1 million on ads through the primary, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. She's kept the focus on local issues and her work on Alaskan issues in Washington, touting her work with veterans and advocacy for Alaska’s fishing industry in recent ads.
Tshibaka, whose campaign has spent $173,000 on the airwaves, has featured Trump’s criticism of Murkowski in ads that have cast Murkowski as a liberal career politician. Murkowski has often criticized Trump, and voted to convict Trump in his Senate impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.