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Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Tshibaka Advance in Alaska’s Senate Contest

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a centrist Republican seeking a fourth full term in Washington, along with her main rival, Kelly Tshibaka, advanced to the general election in the state’s primaries, according to The Associated Press.

Ms Murkowski and Ms Tshibaka each earned enough votes to advance to the General in the fall as part of Alaska’s new open primary system. Ms. Murkowski hopes to fend off a conservative backlash over her Senate vote to convict former President Donald J. Trump for instigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

With an estimated 50 percent of the vote reported, Ms Murkowski and Ms Tshibaka were neck and neck with just over 40 percent each. The closest rival after them was in the single digits.

The ballots are still being counted and two other candidates will also continue as part of the state’s top four system, but it was unclear which two.

Ms. Murkowski, 65, is the only Republican Senate vote this year to convict Mr Trump in his impeachment trial. She has been outspoken about her frustrations with Mr. Trump’s rule over the Republican Party, though she has retained the support of the Senate Republican campaign arm.

She has also repeatedly crossed the aisle to support bipartisan compromises and Democratic nominees, including the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and the confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. And she’s one of only two Senate Republicans to support abortion rights and have expressed their dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a move that abolished the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years.

Those views have rallied both state and local Republicans against her, and her impeachment vote earned her disapproval from the Alaska Republican Party. Mr. Trump, furious with her vote to convict him, called on his supporters to rally behind Ms. Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, who identified herself as an “America First” candidate who would better serve conservatives. to represent in the state.

“Clearly we are at a point where the next senator can either stand behind Alaska or continue to turn on the disastrous Biden administration that is doing us more damage every day,” Ms Tshibaka wrote in an opinion essay published days before the primary. “When I am the next senator from Alaska, I will never forget the Alaskans who elected me, and I will always stand for the values ​​of the people of this great state.”

But the new open primary system, combined with the use of ranked choice votes in the general election, was designed in part with centrist candidates like Ms. Murkowski in mind, and was championed by her allies in the famously independent state.

Voters in November can rank their top four candidates. If no candidate achieves a majority, officials will eliminate the last seat and reallocate his or her supporters’ votes to the voters’ second choice until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.

While she’s never crossed that threshold in previous elections, Ms. Murkowski has overcome tough odds before: In 2010, she memorably triumphed in a nomination campaign after a stunning primary loss to a Tea Party challenger. That victory came largely thanks to a coalition of Alaska Natives and centrists.

Ms. Murkowski has used her seniority and her bipartisan credentials to plead her case before voters in Alaska, highlighting the billions of dollars she has sent to the state through her role on the Senate Credit Committee and her role in passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill of $1 trillion.

She draws on her friendships with Democrats such as Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and the legacies of Alaska legislators such as former Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, who died in March, to show that there is still a place in Congress for its style of legislation .

“You have to show that there are other possibilities, that there is another reality – and maybe it won’t work,” Ms Murkowski said in an interview this year. “Maybe I’m just being politically naive and this ship has left. But I won’t know unless we — unless I — stay there and give Alaskans a chance to weigh in.”

However, her challengers try to capitalize on the frustrations towards Ms. Murkowski in both sides. In addition to branding her as too liberal for the state, Ms. Tshibaka has harbored a lingering grudge over the way Ms. Murkowski’s father, Frank, chose her to finish his term as senator when he became governor in 2002.

Alyce McFadden reporting contributed.

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