By Melissa Holzberg
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) hasn’t announced if she’ll run for reelection in 2022, but the nearly 20-year Senate veteran will have a war chest if she decides to enter the race. Murkowski raised more than $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2021, bringing her election cycle total to about $3.6 million, according to her July Federal Election Commission filing.
Murkowski ended the second quarter of 2021 with $2.3 million in the bank.
Murkowski’s challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, raked in just a fraction of Murkowski’s totals.
In the second quarter of 2021, Tshibaka reported raising $544,456. Tshibaka raised $214,844 in the first quarter — she first announced her candidacy just days before the first financial quarter ended at the end of March. In total, her campaign has brought in more than $759,000 since its inception.
Tshibaka ended the quarter with $275,664 in cash on hand.
The Alaska senator’s haul is particularly impressive given the statewide Republican effort to support Tshibaka. The Alaska Republican Party’s Central Committee voted earlier this week to endorse Tshibaka in a 58-17 vote.
The decision by the state party wasn’t a surprise, though. The Alaska GOP censured Murkowski in March for voting to convict former President Donald Trump in February for his conduct leading up to, and during, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. And the state party went further after censuring the senator. The group of Republican leaders asked Murkowski to not identify as a Republican candidate for Senate, and said they would actively recruit a challenger to any reelection bid.
Murkowski defended her impeachment vote in February, saying she would make the same decision again even if it meant she’d be censured.
“My obligation is to support the Constitution that I have pledged to uphold, and I will do that, even if it means that I have to oppose the direction of my state party,” Murkowski told reporters at the time.
Tshibaka also has the support of the Republican Party’s loudest voice, and one of its most prolific fundraisers: Trump.
The former president endorsed Tshibaka in June, after publicly quarreling with Murkowski on several occasions. In June 2020, Trump promised to campaign against the Alaska senator after she said she didn’t know if she would support Trump in the presidential election due to his handling of the George Floyd murder. Trump tweeted at the time that he would support any challenger to Murkowski.
“Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!” Trump wrote.
While Tshibaka hasn’t outraised Murkowski, she has outspent her. Tshibaka spent $483,635 in the second quarter — nearly as much as she raised. Murkowski, however, only spent $165,239 between April 1 and June 30. However, since Murkowski hasn’t announced if she’s running for reelection it makes sense her campaign spent substantially less than Tshibaka.
Tshibaka has focused her campaign around supporting the former president. In April, Tshibaka told CNN “we don’t know the outcome of the 2020 election” and said she still had “questions” regarding ballot counting.
Even though Murkowski has a substantial fundraising lead, Tshibaka had a larger percentage of her fundraising come from small-dollar donations — or individual contributions less than $200. Tsibaka raised $244,155 in small-dollar donations — that’s more than 44% of her total second quarter contributions. Murkowski reported just $29,172 in small dollar donations. That’s less than 3% of her second quarter total receipts.
If Murkowski chooses to run for reelection, she’ll have the support of her Senate colleague, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). And Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the NRSC will support all incumbents.
The 2022 Alaska Senate race will be decided by ranked-choice voting. Rather than two party primaries in August 2022, all Alaska Senate candidates will be on one ballot. The four candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.