Two Alaska moderates, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, won reelection Wednesday over two challengers backed by former President Donald Trump, thanks to the state’s ranked-choice-voting system, which allowed them to prevail without winning a majority of the vote.
Murkowski repelled Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka, less than two years after Murkowski voted for conviction in Trump’s impeachment trial.
Peltola, meanwhile, beat former Gov. Sarah Palin, another Trump-endorsed candidate, by a wider margin than her victory in the Aug. 19 special election that first sent Peltola to Congress.
The Nov. 8 races were the first general elections held under Alaska’s new ranked-choice-voting scheme. Murkowski beat fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka, 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent, after the second-choice votes from supporters of the third- and fourth-place candidates were reallocated in Wednesday’s tabulation.
Murkowski drew Trump’s ire repeatedly during and after his four years as president, with her February 2021 vote to convict Trump as the capstone. Though Murkowski joined six other Republican senators in voting for Trump’s conviction, she was the only one on the ballot this year.
“I am honored that Alaskans — of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations — have once again granted me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate,” Murkowski said in a statement after the results were announced.
Murkowski first joined the Senate in 2002, when she was appointed by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, to fill a vacant seat. This wasn’t the first time she’s faced opposition from conservativates: In her 2010 reelection bid, Murkowski was defeated by a right-wing primary challenger, Joe Miller, but came back to beat Miller in the general election as a write-in candidate.
Peltola’s margin over Palin in the House race was larger, 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent. And it represented a significant swing from the special election in August, when Peltola won by 3 points.
Peltola is the first Alaska Democrat to win a full House term since 1970.
Also winning Wednesday was GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who overcame opponents on his left and right, including former Gov. Bill Walker, who was running as an independent. Dunleavy won a bare majority of the first-place votes, so no ranked-choice tabulation was needed to secure his victory.
Alaska represented some of the final results of the 2022 midterms. For the Senate, Democrats have secured 50 seats in the new Congress, to Republicans’ 49. The final seat will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia.
In the House, Republicans have won 220 seats, and Democrats have 213. Republicans lead in the two final uncalled races, in California’s Central Valley and Colorado’s Western Slope, though neither race has been called.
And among governors, the two parties evenly split the 36 states holding governor’s races this year. But more Americans will live under Democratic governors next year, about 185 million, than Republican governors (141 million).