Kelly Tshibaka

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka spoke at the Alaska Interior Republicans lunch on Friday. 

The Alaska Republican Party has endorsed political newcomer Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska primary for U.S. Senate.

The Alaska Republican State Central Committee voted 58-17 at a meeting in Fairbanks last week to endorse Tshibaka in the 2022 election.  

“I am honored to be endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party,” Tshibaka posted to social media. “In the Senate, I will always fight for our conservative values.”

Asked about the state party endorsement of her challenger, Murkowski said in an email: “I have and will continue to fight for Alaskan values in the U.S. Senate. Alaskan voters will decide who represents them in D.C., and I work every day to earn their support.”

Fairbanks political scientist Jerry McBeath described the state party endorsement of a newcomer to Alaska politics over the long-time incumbent as unusual in congressional races. Murkowski has served in the U.S. Senate since 2002.

“At the state level, it has been an issue for several years about party endorsements against sitting members of the legislative body. It is unusual but not unheard of” in primary races for the U.S. Senate and House, said McBeath, a researcher and writer who taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for 40 years.

Tshibaka described herself in a campaign video as a conservative who is pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. “I worked in D.C., but I am not one of those political insiders,” she said in the video. Tshibaka was commissioner at the Alaska Department of Administration from 2019 to 2021, when she resigned to run for U.S. Senate. Before that, Tshibaka worked in the Office of Inspector General in Washington, D.C. 

Tshibaka is a Harvard law school graduate who also attended the University of Alaska. She and her husband, Niki Tshibaka, started an evangelical church, the Lighthouse Fellowship. They have five children and live in Anchorage.

The Republican State Central Committee voted 53-17 in March to censure Murkowski over her support to impeach former President Donald Trump, as well as for votes that countered state party positions. The Alaska GOP agreed at the time to find a challenger to run against Murkowski. The Alaska GOP did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment.

Trump recently endorsed Tshibaka, and he vowed to defeat Murkowski after her impeachment vote. Murkowski voted to convict Trump on charges of “incitement of insurrection” over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“I have reached the conclusion that President Trump’s actions were an impeachable offense, and his course of conduct amounts to incitement of insurrection as set out in the Article of Impeachment,” Murkowski said after the vote in Congress.  

“The former president indicated he doesn’t believe he lost the election fairly, and he has encouraged Republicans in office to agree with that perspective,” said McBeath, who described the state party endorsement of Tshibaka as a “post-Trumpian effect.”

“Tshibaka is the candidate of the current leadership of Republicans,” said McBeath, emphasizing that he is speaking as a researcher and not making an endorsement either way by his comments.

“The state leadership is dissatisfied with several positions of Lisa Murkowski,” he said. “The question is how well is their perspective reflective of the people likely to vote in the primary.”

Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.