Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), Kelly Tshibaka (R), Patricia Chesbro (D), and Buzz Kelley (R) are running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Alaska on November 8, 2022.
The four candidates advanced from the top-four primary held on August 16, 2022, the first time Alaska used such a system in a Senate race since voters there approved it in 2020. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, ran in a single primary. Murkowski, Tshibaka, Chesbro, and Kelley received the most votes and advanced to the general election, where the winner will be decided using ranked-choice voting.
Murkowski and Tshibaka have led in media attention and together received more than 80% of the primary vote, with Murkowski receiving 45% and Tshibaka receiving 38.6%. FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley and Zoha Qamar wrote, “the ranked choice voting process seems likely to set up a contest between the two leading Republicans, [Murkowski and Tshibaka].”
Murkowski first took office in 2002. Lisa Murkowski’s father, Frank Murkowski (R), was a senator from 1981 to 2002, when he resigned to become governor of Alaska. After taking office, the elder Murkowski appointed his daughter to the U.S. Senate seat. In 2010, after losing the Republican nomination, Lisa Murkowski successfully ran for re-election as a write-in candidate, only the second senator in U.S. history to do so. In 2016, Murkowski was re-elected with 44.4% of the vote, defeating second-place finisher Joe Miller (L) by 15.2 percentage points.
Murkowski has highlighted her seniority and said her willingness to work with Democrats has helped steer federal funding to Alaska. Murkowski said, “This race is about who can deliver best for Alaska. Through my seniority and ability to work across party lines, I’m getting real results for Alaska.” Murkowski has also highlighted her support for energy development in the state and said her vote for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has already brought billions to Alaska.
Tshibaka, a former commissioner at the Alaska Department of Administration, has accused Murkowski of not using her seniority to block more of President Joe Biden’s (D) agenda. Tshibaka said, “Lisa Murkowski has enabled Biden’s agenda by casting the tie-breaking deciding vote to advance his anti-energy Interior Secretary nominee and confirming over 90% of his radical nominees.” Tshibaka has also focused on economic issues and said she supports a Parental Bill of Rights that would give parents “a right to be fully informed and to approve of any sex education, gender identification, or race theory material being presented or discussed with their child.”
In February 2021, Murkowski voted to convict then-President Donald Trump (R) after the U.S. House impeached him over the events surrounding the January 6 breach of the Capitol. In June 2021, Trump endorsed Tshibaka. The Republican Party of Alaska also endorsed Tshibaka.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and fellow Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) endorsed Murkowski. Murkowski also has the endorsements of several Democratic elected officials, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Kyrsten Sinema (D).
Chesbro, a retired educator who serves on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, has highlighted her support for renewable energy. In her responses to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, Chesbro said, “We cannot turn off the spigot on fossil fuels. We can invest in our future through developing our renewable resources to create the energy on which we depend” Chesbro has also focused on her support for abortion rights.
Kelley, a retired mechanic, said he supports lowering government spending and said the United States should become energy independent through oil exploration and solar energy development. Kelley also said he supports unions. “Union jobs provide a good income. Those union hands then go out into their communities and spend that money. That is how you have an economy folks,” Kelley said.
The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. Senate. Thirty-five of 100 seats are up for election, including one special election. Democrats have an effective majority, with the chamber split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) having the tie-breaking vote. Fourteen seats held by Democrats and 21 seats held by Republicans are up for election in 2022.