Around a dozen lawmakers have been censured by local or state-level Republican Party officials this winter for either voting against the January 6 measure to overturn the electoral-vote count or voting to convict former president Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial in February. But the Alaska Republican Party has kicked the campaign against moderate GOP senator Lisa Murkowski up a notch. After voting 53 to 17 to censure her on Saturday in Anchorage, it is now trying to push her off the Republican ticket for her Senate race in 2022.
“The party does not want Lisa Murkowski to be a Republican candidate,” Tuckerman Babcock, the immediate past chairman of the state party, told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
In the censure resolution, Alaska Republicans took offense to basically every position Murkowski has taken that wavers from absolute party fealty, including her vote to convict Trump, her vote to confirm Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, her vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act, her opposition to limiting abortion access, and her “present” vote during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. These positions are the same ones that have earned her a reputation as a relative moderate on her side of the aisle. They have also made her a target for President Biden’s efforts to sway Republicans to support his legislative agenda as well as putting a target on her back for a primary in 2022.
The vote on Saturday directed party leaders to recruit a candidate to run in the 2022 primary against Murkowski, a challenge that goes beyond just asking her not to run as a Republican. In addition to Murkowski enjoying the name recognition that comes with having held her Senate seat since 2002, Alaskans in 2020 narrowly voted in favor of ranked-choice elections. The measure in place in 2022 will cancel party primaries, instead requiring both parties to nominate a candidate for the general election. The top four candidates who survive this open primary will then appear on the ticket in November. Ranked-choice primaries tend to help moderates and incumbents; Murkowski is both. And even if she were to ditch the Republicans next year, she has had success running as an independent before. In 2010, she lost the GOP primary only to win the general as a write-in candidate.
In the push to topple Murkowski, Alaska Republicans hope to use their jaded ace in the hole. Trump, who won the state by more than ten points, has vowed to campaign against the “disloyal” senator who blamed him for directly instigating the Capitol riot. The only problem is that Trump’s advisers reportedly don’t think he’ll be willing to stomach the long flight from Mar-a-Lago to Anchorage just to secure a more hard-line vote in the Senate Republican Conference.