FAIRBANKS — With Donald Trump the final Republican candidate in the race for president after the rapid-fire dropouts of his opponents, Alaska’s congressional delegation members said despite their misgivings they’ll support the presumptive nominee.
Leading up to Tuesday the election cycle had seen the fewest endorsements of any recent presidential election cycle, and Wednesday served as a reckoning of sorts for party members who hoped for anyone but Trump.
Some, like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, vowed to vote third-party before casting a vote for Trump. Others were more diplomatic in an effort to unite the party in the run up to the general election.
For their part, all three of Alaska’s congressional delegation said they’d support Trump in the general election, even though they had some reluctance given the real estate mogul’s incendiary comments about minorities, religion and women.
The common thread between Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, was anyone but presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Murkowski, who’s up for election this year and so far has avoided a serious primary opponent, said she’ll support the Republican nominee despite his “troubling” statements and hope he works to unite the party.
“I have always supported the Republican nominee for president. Elections are about choices and while Hillary Clinton is not my choice — with her clear record against Alaska’s priorities — Donald Trump has made numerous inappropriate statements in the past that are troubling,” she said in a statement. “Now, he needs to shift his focus to unite Republicans around conservative policies that will bring economic growth and prosperity back to our nation.”
Murkowski lost the Republican primary in 2010 to Tea Party challenger Joe Miller in a contentious race. She would go on to run as an write-in candidate, eventually holding onto the seat.
There’s been long-running rumors about another conservative challenger, but so far none has materialized. Anchorage attorney Margaret Stock entered the race earlier this year as an independent, and Democrats have not yet put forward a candidate.
Sullivan said he supports Trump even if he doesn’t agree with everything he’s said. The best reason to support Trump, he said, was simply that he’s not Hillary Clinton.
“There’s no doubt that a President Hillary Clinton would be akin to a third term for President Obama and would be a mortal threat to Alaska’s economic future,” he said in a prepared statement. “Therefore, while I don’t support some of the rhetoric Donald Trump has used in his campaign, nor some of his policy ideas, I plan on supporting the Republican nominee at this time.”
Like Murkowski, he said the focus should be on holding onto Republican control of the Senate.
“My major focus is on keeping the Senate in Republican control,” he said. “That’s critical for Alaska, regardless of who wins the presidency.”
In a meeting with the News-Miner editorial board last year, Sullivan said he was concerned by campaign rhetoric about race, saying it hurt the party's “big tent” inclusive approach. He didn’t mention Trump specifically, but the Nov. 25, 2015, meeting came shortly after Trump suggested a national database for Muslims but before he called for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country.
“When we get in terms of candidacies where we’re attacking certain groups or ethnic groups or immigrants, I don’t think that’s the spirit of what the Republican Party represents,” he said.
Sullivan had withheld any endorsements during the campaign, but had friendly things to say about Sen. Ted Cruz despite the Texas senator’s famed unpopularity in the Senate.
Cruz helped campaign for Sullivan in Alaska, even visiting Fairbanks during the 2014 election season. Sullivan called Cruz a “friend” during a short news conference in Juneau after his address to the Legislature. Cruz won Alaska in Super Tuesday primary voting in March.
Young also said he’d support Trump, citing the upcoming general election battle. Young is also running for re-election this fall.
“My motto has always been anybody but Hillary,” he said.
Contact reporter Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or on Twitter at at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.