Murkowski defeats Trump-backed challenger in Alaska Senate race
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is projected to win her bid for reelection to the U.S. Senate, defeating fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka.
The Associated Press called the race just after 8 p.m.
Murkowski won with the state’s new ranked choice voting system after neither she nor Tshibaka secured more than half of first-choice votes, according to the AP. In the second round, the incumbent took the win with 53.7 percent of the vote, to Tshibaka’s 46.3 percent.
Murkowski, who has served in the upper chamber since 2002, drew the ire of former President Trump after voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial.
Murkowski underscored her bipartisan record throughout her campaign — and bucked her own party last month when she announced she’d rank Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola first on her ballot in the state’s House race.
Peltola was also projected to win her race Wednesday, fending off former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and two others to hold onto the seat she won during a special election this summer following the death of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).
The results of the Alaska race took weeks to announce due to the state’s newly introduced ranked choice voting system, in which voters rank their candidates by preference.
Under the new system, a candidate wins outright in the first round of voting if he or she gets over 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate meets that threshold, a second round takes place, in which the candidate that received the fewest votes is eliminated, and the votes of those who voted for the eliminated candidate are redistributed to voters’ next choice for the seat.
The process continues until one candidate breaks 50 percent of the vote.
The new system allowed both Murkowski and Tshibaka to be on the midterm ballot, even though they’re both Republican contenders.
The other candidate in the ring was Democrat Pat Chesbro. A fourth candidate, Republican Buzz Kelley, was on the ballot despite having suspended his campaign to endorse Tshibaka.
With Chesbro pulling in low poll numbers ahead of Election Day, the ranked-choice system was expected to be a boost for Murkowski, as votes for the Democrat were likely to shift to the more moderate Republican in a second round, rather than to the more conservative Tshibaka.
Updated at 9:18 p.m.