Murkowski announces reelection bid, setting up battle with Trump

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Congress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills MORE (R-Alaska) on Friday announced that she is running for reelection to the Senate in 2022, setting up a tough fight as former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE vows to unseat her. 

Murkowski, in a statement and campaign video that marked the start of her reelection campaign, didn’t directly mention the former president but warned that the Senate race will draw national scrutiny and touted her deep ties to the state. 

“In this election, lower 48 outsiders are going to try to grab Alaska’s Senate seat for their partisan agendas. They don’t understand our state, and frankly they couldn’t care less about your future,” Murkowski says in the campaign video

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“I will work with anyone from either party to advance Alaska’s priorities, and I will always stand up to any politician or special interest that threatens our way of life,” Murkowski continues. 

The Alaska race will, in many ways, be a test of the proxy fight between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' Senate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Ky.), who has vowed that he and his allies will back Murkowski. 

Trump has already endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, who resigned from her job as Alaska’s Commissioner of Administration earlier this year in order to run for the Senate seat. Trump released a statement earlier this year accusing Murkowski of being “bad for Alaska” and calling Tshibaka “a fighter who stands for Alaska values and America First.”

Trump vowed to come to Alaska to campaign against Murkowski, and Tshibaka announced earlier this month that Trump is hosting a fundraiser for her at Mar-a-Lago.

But Murkowski used her campaign launch on Friday to highlight her own deep ties to Alaska, saying that she “pledged to be Alaska, always.”

“My heart is, and always has been, in Alaska, and that’s why I am proud to announce my campaign for reelection to the US Senate in 2022,” she said in a statement accompanying the video.

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Murkowski drew Trump’s ire when she opposed Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Neil Gorsuch's terrifying paragraph GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE’s Supreme Court nomination in 2018, with the then-president telling The Washington Post at the time that he thought Murkowski would “ never recover from this” and lose in 2022. 

Murkowski is one of the most moderate members of the Senate GOP caucus, voting against a Republican repeal plan to repeal ObamaCare in 2017. She was the first Republican senator to say Trump should resign after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and was one of the seven GOP senators who voted to convict him. 

Murkowski, during a radio interview in July, predicted that her reelection campaign would not be “easy or ordinary.” 

“I know that former President Trump is skeptical about me and the job that I do for Alaska, but I really think that that's for Alaskans to judge,” she said. 

She also acknowledged that Trump has threatened to campaign in Alaska but “he's threatened to do a lot to those who have stood up to him, and sometimes there's some carry-through, and sometimes maybe it's just idle words or idle threats, but I can't let that influence what I do.”

Even though Friday marks the formal start of Murkowski’s reelection bid, she’s been hauling in campaign cash, outraising Tshibaka so far this year as they gear up for the 2022 election. 

Murkowski raised nearly $1.1 million during the latest fundraising quarter that ended on Sept. 30, with $3.2 million cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. Tshibaka, meanwhile, raised more than $465,000 during the same quarter, with $295,000 on hand, according to the FEC. 

While Trump and some in his network are all in for Tshibaka, Murkowski is expected to get support from McConnell and allied groups like the Senate Leadership Fund, which endorsed her earlier this year.  

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who oversees the Senate GOP campaign arm and has cultivated ties with Trump, reiterated during an NBC News interview on Sunday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) will support Murkowski. 

“Absolutely. ... We support all of our incumbents,” Scott said, when asked if the NRSC would financially support Murkowski. 

It’s not the first time Murkowski has faced a difficult reelection bid. Murkowski was appointed to the Senate in 2002 and won her first six-year term in 2004. But when Murkowski ran for reelection in 2010, she lost in the GOP primary to Joe Miller. Murkowski then launched a write-in campaign and won the general election. 

Alaska changed its election system last year. The top four candidates in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election, where voters will then rank candidates in order of preference in what is known as ranked-choice voting. 

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While Murkowski touted her ties to Alaska as she launched her campaign on Friday, she’s also previously hinted that she’ll take aim at Tshibaka’s time out of the state after she left Alaska at age 15 but moved back in early 2019. 

The Anchorage Daily News reported earlier this year that Alaska Wildlife Troopers were investigating if Tshibaka illegally obtained a resident sportfishing license in 2019 after living in the state for roughly eight months instead of the 12 months required before applying for a license. Tshibaka was also cited and fined $270 last month for commercial fishing without a commercial fishing crew license. 

Asked about the investigation stemming from 2019, Murkowski told CNN earlier this year that Tshibaka has “got a problem with her fishing license and residency problem." 

“I don't know her. She just came back to the state a couple years ago,” Murkowski added.