Alaska Becomes Last Battleground of GOP Civil War

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The Republican Civil War heats up in Alaska ahead of the gubernatorial, Senate and state House races.

With Governor Mike Dunleavy (R), Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell: I’ll Give Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee ‘Fair Look’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Who Will Replace Justice Breyer? McConnell aims to avoid GOP drama over Trump MORE (R) and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHillicon Valley – YouTube Permanently Bans Dan Bongino Amazon Approves Legislation to End Federal Marijuana Ban West Virginia Lawmaker Slams Fellow GOP for Supporting Infrastructure Act MORE (R) All set for re-election, the party is torn over issues including the coronavirus pandemic, election integrity, federal and state spending, and alumni President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Wisconsin GOP Party Chairman Signals He Will Comply With Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security – Pentagon Tells Russia To Step Down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out at Manchin following his opposition to Build Back Better PLUShis role in the party.

The GOP’s infighting in the state is a departure from a typically stilted political scene, where Republicans have historically focused on energy and economic issues while moving away from culture wars.

“This election is heated. Without a doubt, the tone and content is very high,” said Eldon Mulder, lobbyist and former Republican member of the State House. statewide have been challenged, and not just a little, very seriously challenged.

Chief among the major debates dividing Alaska Republicans is Trump’s ubiquity in the state’s top races this year.

The former president lambasted Murkowski for his vote last year to convict him after he was impeached for his role in stirring up the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on Capitol Hill. He has since shown his support for Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican defying Murkowski, and consultants from his orbit have flocked to his campaign.

Then in late December, Trump issued a conditional endorsement for Dunleavy — giving his support to the governor as long as he didn’t endorse Murkowski. Dunleavy eventually accepted the imprimatur, saying Trump “has nothing to worry about,” but later noting that he and Murkowski will continue their working relationship.

Despite Trump’s endorsement, Dunleavy is also pressed from his right flank on several burning issues.

The first-term governor now faces challenges from State Rep. Christopher Kurka (R) and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce running to his right, particularly vociferously calling him out on the coronavirus.

Dunleavy has refrained from issuing mask or vaccine mandates, leaving such decisions to local governments, but conservative critics say he should have banned such mandates from his perch in Juneau. He also continues to face business shutdowns implemented early in the pandemic — moves by other Republican governors as well.

Those criticisms turned into calls for Dunleavy to fire her chief medical officer, Anne Zink, forcing him to publicly defend her at a press conference earlier this month and say she “has my trust”.

Beyond the pandemic, Dunleavy is also proposing an election bill in the current legislative session that will impose some restrictions – but not enough, according to the Conservatives.

On top of all that, the governor is heading for a budget battle. Dunleavy proposed cuts so deep in his first year in office that they produced a fierce recall campaign, but conservatives want the 2023 budget to impose more cuts and rely less on federal coronavirus stimulus funds.

Young has avoided most of the outrage from conservatives, but he too faces a host of Republican challengers.

Taken together, Republicans in Alaska say they see a wave of conservative angst that was inspired by Trump but lingers even with him out of office.

“They’ve become driven by some of these burning cultural issues because of Donald Trump’s presence, and the high anger that Donald Trump instilled in our election here is still very much there,” said Joe Geldhof, a lawyer and party donor. of state. involved in Republican causes. “They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it.”

Rather than typical disagreements over energy policy or Alaska’s unique permanent fund dividend, it’s precisely these “burning cultural issues” that are the primary reasons behind the challengers’ bids.

In an interview with The Hill, Kurka said the top three reasons he is running are complaints about the coronavirus, “election integrity” and “federal overreach,” adding that he is not not vaccinated, citing a COVID-19 infection last fall and mentioning debunked theories about issues with Dominion Voting Systems’ voting machines in the 2020 cycle.

Further emboldening the conservative flank of the GOP in Alaska, a new electoral system is being implemented for the first time this year.

Under the new format, each candidate, regardless of party, will run in a single primary in August. The top four voters from this race will advance to the overall, which will be run as a ranked election. Voters will then rank their top four choices in the general election, and subsequent choices beyond the highest vote are then reallocated if no candidate wins an outright majority.

Republicans say the system is producing unprecedented confusion – and encouraging challengers to try to find multiple paths to victory.

“I think ranked voting makes people a lot braver,” said Judy Norton-Eledge, president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club and supporter of Tshibaka and Dunleavy.

Polls in both races are sparse, but the combination of political angst and voter confusion has provided a perfect storm for the far-right flank of the GOP, which could mount its strongest bid to weed out the incumbents. Alaska for years.

“These are not the eternal fringe candidates we see running election after election,” said John-Henry Heckendorn, an Alaskan consultant who has worked for candidates from both parties, when asked about Kurka and Pierce.

Still, Murkowski and Dunleavy have their own bases, and knocking them down would be no small feat.

Murkowski comes from a famous political family in Alaska and has an extensive network across the sprawling state. She won re-election in 2010 through a written campaign after losing the GOP primary, a victory her allies often tout.

Dunleavy, meanwhile, will be formidable with Trump’s endorsement, and it remains to be seen how strong Kurka and Pierce will be as the cycle progresses.

Murkowski’s campaign declined to comment when reached by The Hill, but Andrew Jensen, a volunteer spokesperson for Dunleavy’s campaign, told The Hill that the governor “is proud to stand on his record. and looks forward to engaging in this race on issues that are important to Alaska voters.

Still, the path ahead for both lawmakers is a dangerous one as they seek to balance their appeals between disgruntled conservatives, their existing base and even some high profile contenders to their left like former Gov. Bill Walker(I).

“Dunleavy seems a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Heckendorn said. “These aren’t issues where it’s really possible to just walk on water and float in the middle, but he doesn’t seem to know how not to at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the Tory challengers have shown no signs of letting up.

Tshibaka released a series of statements slamming Murkowski and linking her to President BidenJoe BidenFormer Wisconsin GOP party chairman signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi bypasses Progressives’ March 1 deadline to Build Back Betterwhile Dunleavy’s opponents insist they have enough enthusiasm to keep hammering away.

“You’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party movement around the Obama administration, I’ve never seen anything like this where you’ve had people coming out of the woodwork to fight and engage in the political process,” he said. Kurka told The Hill, adding of GOP incumbents, “I wish they were bolder.”

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