From where we sit, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski would be hard-pressed to survive a GOP primary election in Alaska if she were to run for office again next year. Luckily for her, she may not have to face a primary battle.
The anger in Republican ranks is almost palpable after her vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his recent Senate impeachment trial. She says she knows, “but I can’t be afraid of that.”
Murkowski was one of seven Republican senators who sided with Democrats in a failed attempt to convict Trump, who was acquitted of incitement of insurrection related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Other Republicans who joined Democrats, including Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, have faced censure by party officials in their states.
Murkowski always has gone her own way in the Senate. In opposition to most Republicans, she helped in 2017 to sink the effort to repeal Obamacare, infuriating Republicans. Later, instead of supporting Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, she found a way to vote “present,” again stirring the flames. She was the first Republican to call on Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 riot. She did not support a confirmation vote to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the November election. And on and on.
She has prided herself on being an “independent” thinker, no matter what her party wants. For many, “independent” is a nice way of saying “undeclared Democrat.” That could have consequences – or not.
A voter-approved initiative fueled almost entirely by Outside money has shaken Alaska’s electoral system to its core, establishing ranked-choice voting and doing away with primary elections as we have known them, and, for all intents and purposes, political parties. The top four vote-getters in the non-partisan primary will advance to the general election.
The new system may serve to shield Murkowski from angry Republicans. There is, however, a lawsuit pending against the new system challenging its constitutionality.
What Murkowski will choose to do remains to be seen, but it is unlikely she will get much support from Republicans looking for someone a little less “independent” and more attuned to core Republican values.