Former President Donald Trump suffered his latest defeat of this year’s election cycle after Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, took the lead in her re-election bid against his-backed candidate Kelly Tshibaka.
Alaska’s election department released an updated vote count Friday night that gave Murkowski an edge over a more conservative Republican Tshibaka. Tshibaka’s campaign gained Trump’s support after Murkowski voted to sentence him during his second impeachment trial following the January 6, 2021 riots in the United States Capitol.
Polls showed the moderate Murkowski in a close race in the Republican-leaning state. Friday’s update gave Murkowski a 1,658 vote lead over Tshibaka as well as her other challengers, Republican Buzz Kelley and Democrat Patricia Chesbro. A Murkowski victory would deal the final blow to Trump, whose supported candidates faltered during this year’s midterms.
According to the latest results, 43.32 percent of voters backed Murkowski, while 42.68 percent backed Tshibaka. Chesbro received the support of 10.35 percent of voters, according to the state elections commission, while Kelley got 2.88 percent. Less than 1 percent of Alaskans voted for a write-in candidate.
Alaska uses precedence voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in the order they want to fill the position. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The votes cast for that candidate are then reallocated based on their voters’ second-choice candidates. This continues until a candidate reaches 50 percent.
Murkowski is expected to hit 50 percent once the ladder ballot begins, as Chesbro voters are likely to rank her above Tshibaka, who ran a more conservative campaign.
Murkowski celebrated her new lead on Twitter, pointing out that she now has a head start before ranked picks even take effect. She tweeted a GIF with the caption, “And just like that, Kelly’s claim that she only lost by ranking vote was gone.”
Trump-backed candidates falter during the midterms
Murkowski’s likely victory would be the last loss for the Trump-backed candidates at halftime.
Republicans saw disappointing results, losing the Senate and gaining a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives, despite hopes of a “red wave” that would give them comfortable control of Congress.
Trump-backed candidates in Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania lost key Senate races and delivered the majority of Democrats in the chamber. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Senate election will be decided during a runoff next month as neither Senator Raphael Warnock nor Trump-backed Herschel Walker won 50 percent of the vote.
After the halftime, some Republicans blamed Trump for the disappointing results and called for a new GOP leadership. They criticized him for raising weaker candidates who supported his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud during the last presidential election against more traditional Republicans who may have garnered more support from independents or moderate Democrats.
Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign Tuesday, despite fresh criticism and calls not to run for office again. The announcement drew mixed reactions from Republicans. While many have already backed him, others have pushed for alternative conservative candidates to become the party’s 2024 nominee.
news week reached out to Trump’s office and Murkowski’s campaign for comment.