© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Republican US Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, running for re-election to the US Senate in the 2022 US midterm elections, is seen in this undated photo taken October 5, 2022. Lisa Murkowski/Handout via REUTERS
By Moira Warburton and Gram Slattery
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Representative Mary Peltola of Alaska both won re-election against opponents backed by Donald Trump on Wednesday, the latest defeats for those backed by the former president.
Peltola and Murkowski came out on top after Alaska officials finished tallying all the ballots for the Nov. 1 election. 8 by using the new government system of “choice”, which allows voters to register the candidates they want.
Murkowski, 65, has represented Alaska in the Senate since 2002 and has built an independent reputation as one of the chamber’s few leaders.
He was the first Republican senator to call for Trump’s resignation after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to prevent Congress from recognizing Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. He later voted to impeach Trump, his fellow Republican.
“Thank you, Alaska. I am honored that the people of Alaska – from all regions, cultures and parties – have given me their confidence to continue working with them and on behalf of the US Senate,” Murkowski wrote on Twitter.
Peltola, the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, defeated two Republicans: former vice president Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich.
Palin, a former governor, is an interesting figure in the Republican Party. His vice presidential run in 2008 was a precursor to the US Tea Party era of politics and helped pave the way for Trump to win the White House.
Murkowski and Peltola would have won even under Alaska’s old election rules, since they each won more votes.
In the selection process, the person with the lowest number of votes in each round of the calculation is eliminated and the votes that placed them first are redistributed. The candidate with the most votes after all the votes have been tallied wins.
After Peltola’s victory in the special election in August against the same two candidates, Palin – whom Trump endorsed – and Begich forced each other to drop out and give the remaining Republicans a chance to defeat the Democrat.
But each refused, insisting that their hardline conservatism would be more popular with Alaska voters. The state has one of the highest percentages of independent voters in the country.
The results of these races were expected by many people, considering the political nature of the votes that were not cast for the top two candidates in each race.
However, it is a black eye for Trump’s brand in the opening days of his 2024 presidential campaign, especially after he lost to his favorites in other key races, including the Senate races in Pennsylvania and Arizona.