Donald Trump endorsed Republican Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday, December 28, 2021, but only on the condition that he supports Trump’s bitter battle to oust Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Trump endorsed Dunleavy’s 2022 re-election campaign while warning the governor that he would retract the endorsement if he does not pledge his own “non-endorsement” of the three-term Republican senator. Murkowski is one of seven Republican senators who in January voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“Mike Dunleavy has been a strong and consistent Conservative since his time in the Alaska State Senate,” Trump said in a statement. “I was proud to endorse his first run for Governor, and I am proud to support his reelection, too.”
“He has my Complete and Total Endorsement but, this endorsement is subject to his non-endorsement of Senator Lisa Murkowski who has been very bad for Alaska,” added Trump. “In other words, if Mike endorses her, which is his prerogative, my endorsement of him is null and void, and of no further force or effect!”
Murkowski, often considered one of the Senate’s more moderate Republicans, was censured by the Alaska Republican Party in March for voting in favor of Trump’s impeachment. She formally announced her re-election campaign in November and is facing at least three Republican primary challengers.
Trump endorsed former Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, a candidate who has promoted gay conversion therapy and repeated false claims about fraud in the 2020 election, around the same time that Murkowski announced her intentions.
Dunleavy’s re-election push is currently facing only a single challenger from the right, Alaska state Representative Christopher Kurka. A poll released in November found that former Alaska Governor Bill Walker, an independent candidate, would defeat Dunleavy in a hypothetical four-way matchup.
Although Trump’s endorsement of Tshibaka is likely to carry some weight given the ex-president’s support in Alaska, Murkowski’s defeat is far from certain. The senator has shown resiliency in the past, accomplishing the very rare feat of winning as a write-in candidate in 2010 after she lost a primary challenge.
A poll released over the summer, conducted under the assumption that ranked choice voting would be used during the next election, found that Murkowski would defeat Tshibaka with relative ease in a hypothetical four-way race.
Ranked choice voting is set to be in place for Alaska’s 2022 election following its approval in a 2020 ballot measure. The measure survived a court challenge, although an appeal is still pending. Assuming the law stands, candidates will first participate in a nonpartisan primary election, with the top four candidates advancing to a ranked choice contest in the general election.