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December 3, 2021

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McConnell/Trump Alaska Cage Match -

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Friday, November 5, 2021

McConnell/Trump Alaska Cage Match

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has declared that she’ll be running for a fourth term. She has alternately been a thorn in the side of Donald Trump, a thorn in the side of Democrats, a thorn in the side of women, and a thorn in the side of almost every stripe of Alaskan there is, at one time or another. Her “concern” about divisive issues has become a running joke. Nobody feels as “troubled” as Lisa Murkowski before she votes the wrong way, and nobody is as proud as Lisa when she makes a “tough vote” that didn’t matter. She has become a master of walking the tight rope, slinking through the mine field, gaslighting, and playing both sides for as long as possible. These aren’t the kind of skills you put on a LinkedIn page, but they’ve been somehow instrumental in keeping her in Washington.

Donald Trump has called her “disloyal” and “bad for Alaska” but don’t let Trump’s scorn tug you into Murkowski’s camp. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” can be a dangerous philosophy in politics. After Murkowski’s father Frank Murkowski bequeathed his U.S. Senate Seat to his daughter to become a highly unpopular one-term Alaska Governor, cars across the state sported bumper stickers that said “Anyone but Frank.” Well, the anyone-but-Frank mentality delivered to us… Gov. Sarah Palin. And we all know how THAT turned out.

Trump vowed, after Murkowski voted yes in the second impeachment trial (she voted no the first time despite her “concerns”), that he’d support anyone who ran against her as long as they “had a pulse.” This 2021 version of “Anyone but Frank” has brought forth a candidate with a pulse.

Enter Kelly Tshibaka. Yes, it pretty much sounds like Chewbacca, but she’s definitely not endearing or furry and can’t pilot a spaceship, more’s the pity. And unfortunately, we can understand what she’s saying.

Tshibaka left Alaska with her parents when she was a child, attended Harvard, and became the quintessential ‘DC insider,’ working in the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and 17 Intelligence Community agencies. She then uprooted her family, returned to Alaska (charging the state $80,000 for travel, hotels, house hunting forays, and cross-continental moving expenses) to become Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Commissioner of Administration. She stayed about 2 years in that position, then quit to launch a campaign for U.S. Senate to represent a state where she cast her first-ever vote way back in *looks at watch* the year 2020.

In summary, she’s not an Alaskan (by even the loosest of Alaskan standards), she spent years as a DC bureaucrat in the “Deep State” her fan base fears so much, she worked for Obama (gasp), she’s already fleeced the state for $80k to move for a job she turned around and quit, and so far she’s gotten a citation for a fishing violation while filming a watch-me-trying-real-hard-to-be-Alaskan TV commercial, and in her latest cringe video she hilariously tries to scrape a windshield. Whatever was left of satire is dead. #ThanksKelly

And yes, she got shredded on Twitter.

Her optimism would be adorable if there were literally anything adorable about her. She seems part angry bird, part snow queen poseur, and part flat-out nutty. When she originally came to the state, an audio tape surfaced of Tshibaka lecturing her church-goers (did I forget to mention that she and her husband were “co-pastors” of the Mount Vernon Foursquare Fellowship in Arlington, Virginia?) about how to speak in tongues. She does it all the time, she says, dancing around the house or shopping in grocery stores. She radiates joy, she says, and strangers stop her all the time to tell her how happy she makes them, wondering about the beautiful song she is singing. God thinks it’s “cute,” she says.

“God keeps wanting me to serve in government,” Kelly told an interviewer in 2015. “He keeps giving me crazy opportunities in my career. He has told me, ‘I’ve made you a Deborah. I’ve made you a mother to a nation.’

Just to spice things up, ex-half-governor Sarah Palin said warily that despite following Alaska politics closely, she’s “never heard of” Tshibaka and has said she herself may run for the Senate seat “if God wants [her] to.” There’s no indication whether God thinks Palin’s brand of word salad is also “cute,” or if that would affect a potential recommendation to run or sit it out.

Anyway.

Before anyone starts getting reactionary warm fuzzies for Murkowski, there’s zero doubt that she does what Mitch McConnell lets her do and nothing more. McConnell and his enormous SuperPAC have proudly endorsed her, despite her official censure from the Alaska State GOP and their endorsement of Tshibaka. They practically gush over her conservative bona fides.

Senator Murkowski has…been a champion for conservative values in Washington. She voted to confirm President Trump’s nominations of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, helping to cement a constitutional conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for years to come. She voted in support of hte landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and policies to free businesses from excessive, burdensome regulations.”

It’s as if all the kids you tried to avoid in elementary school were choosing sides for kickball. On the Tshibaka team you have Trump himself, the MAGA cult, Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy, and about half the Republicans in the state legislature.

On the Murkowski team you have Mitch McConnell, Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, Alaska Congressman Don Young, less socially conservative and oil-interested Republicans, and a cobbled together group of some Alaska Native entities, women, and Democrats who primarily voted for her to avoid the last fringy right-wing conservative.

Oh, and Murkowski just got the coveted endorsement of Florida’s Rick Scott, Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Rick Scott loves him some Lisa Murkowski

So, doesn’t that all sound like a fun kickball game? Who do you want to win, Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell? Excuse me, but after I get out of the nurse’s office for an upset stomach I’ll be over there hanging out on the jungle gym waiting for a Democrat to enter the race.

The final component to this unsavory mess is an entirely new system of primary and general election voting in the state that kicks in just in time for 2022.

In the new ranked-choice voting system that Alaskans passed via ballot initiative last year, Murkowski is counting on being everyone’s second choice to pull off win #4. When Murkowski became the first member of congress in half a century to win a write-in campaign, the motivating factor for voters was more fear of the other guy than true enthusiasm from dyed-in-the-wool Murkowski fans. And if ranked choice voting had been available back then, the droves of panicked Democrats who voted for her instead of smart, populist Democrat Scott McAdams would have filled in the #2 oval for her, making things even more interesting.

The primary election in Alaska, which is to take place in August, will ask voters to choose only one name. The “jungle primary” as it is known, will list all candidates from all parties who’ve jumped through the considerably easy hoop of filling out a form, on one ballot. Gone are the days of the Alaska Republicans’ closed primary. Then, the top four candidates, regardless of party, will move to the general election in November. We have no idea how many people or who will be on the ballot, but knowing Alaska it could be (I’ll use Sarah Palin’s phrase here) “a total cluster.”

Best guess at this point is we’ll end up with a general election ballot featuring Murkowski, Tshibaka, the Democratic candidate who has yet to declare, and a wild card. Voters will then rank their choices, up to four candidates. Any candidate receiving more than 50% of the first-choice votes wins. If there’s no clear winner after round one, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and those votes are reassigned to the number two choice on each voter’s ballot. This process repeats until one candidate has a majority.

Multiply this Senate race times the U.S. House race, the governor’s race, all 40 state house seats, and 19 of the 20 state senate races (and throw in redistricting and new maps just to make it interesting) and Alaskans better buckle up and scrape the windshield. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

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