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Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka advance to general election in Alaska’s Senate race

Murkowski drew Trump’s ire when she voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Tshibaka — Republican rivals locked in one of former President Donald Trump’s grudge matches — will advance to the general election in Alaska’s Senate race, NBC News projects.

Their top finishes in Tuesday’s blanket, nonpartisan primary ensures them two of the four spots in a November contest that will be decided by ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. 

Patricia Chesbro, a Democrat, will also advance, NBC News projects.

NBC News is not yet projecting the winner of the fourth ballot spot in the general election.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.Getty Images

The incumbent Murkowski drew Trump’s ire when she voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial, believing he incited the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump endorsed Tshibaka, a past commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration. 

Trump had taken to calling Murkowski the “disaster from Alaska.” In his June 2021 endorsement — 14 months before the primary — he boosted Tshibaka as “the candidate who can beat Murkowski” and “a fighter who stands for Alaska values and America First.”

Tshibaka has made waves by vowing not to support another Trump foil, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for another term as the Senate’s GOP leader if she’s elected. Murkowski, meanwhile, has proven herself to be a moderate willing to work with Democrats. She was one of only three Republicans who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in April.

The new voting format could help Murkowski. Advocates of ranked choice, which was used most notably in last year’s New York City mayoral election, believe the setup benefits moderate candidates who don’t play to either party’s fringe and work hardest to appeal to the broadest group of people. 

In ranked-choice elections, voters identify a first choice on their ballots, then rank the other candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes on the first count, the election moves to an instant runoff. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for that candidate are recast for the voter’s second choice. The process repeats until a candidate reaches a majority.