Tag Archives: Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Alaska Special Election Set

By Jim Ellis

Alaska’s At-Large Congressman, the late Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon)

March 24, 2022 — Decisions have been made about the special election calendar to replace the late at-large Alaska Congressman Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon).

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) has set June 11 as the special primary election day, and the vote will be conducted through the mail. Alaska’s new top-four jungle primary system will be in play, meaning that four competitors will advance into the special general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The special general will be run concurrently with the Aug. 16 regular primary election, meaning candidates will be placed separately on the ballot for both the special election and the regular full term.

If no candidate receives majority support in the Aug. 16 special election, the Ranked Choice Voting System will take effect. Voters would rank their choices from first to four just for the special general. Since no one would have received 50 percent, the last-place finisher is eliminated and the ballots that ranked the last place finisher as their first choice are located, and only their second choices are then added to the total. This process continues until one of the candidates reaches 50 percent.

This means that voters will rank the four finalists for the special general and then vote for one of the regular primary candidates for the Nov. 8 election during the same voting process on Aug. 16, or the date on which they choose to vote early.

Since Alaska’s at-large House seat has not been open since the 1973 special election when Rep. Young was originally elected, a large special election field will form. Already, Nick Begich III, grandson of Rep. Young’s first Democratic opponent back in 1972, then-Congressman Nick Begich (D) who perished in a plane crash shortly before the regular general election, is in the field but as a Republican. He had announced against Young in the Republican primary before the congressman’s death.

Also saying he will run both in the special and regular elections, as did Begich, is Anchorage City Assemblyman Chris Constant (D).

The Democratic/Independent 2020 US Senate nominee who raised and spent over $19.5 million to unsuccessfully challenge GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, surgeon Al Gross, publicly said that he, too, plans to enter the open seat campaign. Dr. Gross begins the race with a reported $200,000 (approximate) in remaining campaign funds, obviously a big advantage.

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The “Fail Up” Senate Candidates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2021 — There is an interesting phenomenon developing in the 2022 US Senate races, and that is the number of currently leading primary nomination candidates who have lost their last race. No less than five current US Senate contenders, all topping the latest polling, were defeated the last time they were on the ballot, some even in political campaigns for offices with less prominence.

In recent election years, we’ve seen a number of candidates lose a race and then attempt to “fail up” in the next campaign year. Most of the time, the same result occurs. The seemingly lone exception to the rule is Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), who lost a special election for the US House in 2017 only to run for the Senate in 2020 and be elected.

Turning to 2022 and the unusually high number of such “fail up” candidates allows us to see if this pattern can reverse itself, or if the vast majority of these contenders will again find themselves on the short end of the vote totals when their election cycle ends either in the nomination contest or general election.

The 2022 “fail up” Senate candidates are Abby Finkenauer (D) in Iowa, Adam Laxalt (R) from Nevada, Pat McCrory (R) and Cheri Beasley (D) in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell (R). Dr. Al Gross, who lost the 2020 Senate race in Alaska is a possibility to enter the 2022 race in the Last Frontier, but so far has not announced his candidacy.

Finkenauer, a Democrat, is a former state representative and congresswoman from Dubuque, Iowa. She was elected to the House in 2018, only to lose her seat after one term, 50-47 percent, to current US Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Finkenauer is leading in early polling for the Senate Democratic nomination as she and retired Navy admiral and defeated 2020 US Senate candidate Mike Franken battle to challenge venerable Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) who has won seven US Senate elections. Early polling finds Finkenauer trailing by close to 20 points.

Laxalt was elected Nevada’s attorney general in 2014, but with only 46 percent of the vote in a place where his party swept all of the statewide offices in that election year with his being the lowest victory percentage. Laxalt then entered the open 2018 governor’s race but lost to current incumbent Steve Sisolak (D), 49-45 percent. The latest polling (September) finds him trailing Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) by five points in a Mellman Group survey but holding a two-point lead in a study from WPA Intelligence.

North Carolina actually features candidates in both parties leading in nomination polling after losing their last race. McCrory is the former governor who lost his 2016 re-election campaign, even while Donald Trump and seven other Republicans were winning their statewide elections.

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Alaska Senate: A Re-Emergence

By Jim Ellis

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate

Aug. 4, 2021 — The Alaska Survey Research firm released a new Alaska Senate poll finding Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) improving her standing, but an even more drastic potential development has surfaced.

The poll (July 11-21; 947 registered Alaska voters, online) shows Sen. Murkowski posting her best numbers of the year, leading former State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka (R), 36-27 percent. Tshibaka, already the candidate who the Alaska Republican Party and former President Donald Trump have officially endorsed, was leading the senator in earlier published surveys (Change Research: May 22-25; 1,023 likely Alaska voters, Tshibaka 39-19 percent. Cygnal: released March 29; 500 registered Alaska voters, Tshibaka 34-19 percent).

In the July ASR poll, state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) and former Senate nominee Joe Miller (R/Libertarian) trailed the two leaders with 19 and 18 percent, respectively. Under Alaska’s new top-four primary system, all four of these candidates, however, would advance into the general election.

In even better news for Sen. Murkowski, the ASR poll tested her against Tshibaka in a head-to-head match-up and the incumbent would defeat the challenger, 55-45 percent. The bad news for Murkowski is the new Alaska voting system will not allow for such a pairing. Beginning with the 2022 election, all candidates run on a jungle primary ballot in the Aug. 16, 2022, nomination contest and the top four contenders, regardless of percentage attained will advance into the general election. Therefore, testing for a one-on-one ballot test should no longer be applicable in analyzing the Alaska electoral system.

Beyond the poll, a new development could be on the Alaska political horizon. Over the weekend, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, addressed a group of evangelical Christian leaders. Asked if she would run for the Senate, Palin retorted, “if God wants me to run for the US Senate next year, I will.” She then, however, scolded the leaders saying, “I would say you guys better be there for me this time, because a lot of people were not there for me last time.”

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2022: The Unannounced

By Jim Ellis

July 19, 2021 — The Fox News website ran a story late last week saying that there remain five in-cycle US senators who have not yet revealed their political plans for 2022. Below is a review of those senators’ political situations and clues that could provide a glimpse whether they are headed toward re-election or retirement.

The best hints will be forthcoming in a matter of days as the second quarter campaign financial disclosure reports will be released shortly on the Federal Election Commission website. Last Thursday was the deadline for filing the reports for the period covering April 1 through June 30.

The five senators, listed alphabetically by state are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).


Sen. Murkowski:

State: Alaska
Appointed: 2002
Re-elected: 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 65
Victory Margin 2016: 44.4 – 29.2%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Karl Speights (R) – Retired Air Force officer
• Kelly Tshibaka (R) – Former AK Administration Commissioner

It is assumed that Sen. Murkowski will run for re-election, though her return path to Washington may be a difficult one to traverse. Last night, her campaign spokesperson stated that the Senator’s second quarter disclosure report would show $1.15 million raised for the quarter with $2.3 million cash-on-hand. These are financial numbers that suggest she will seek re-election.

Alaska has changed its nominating system and will be the first state to adopt a “top four” primary procedure. Similar to California, Louisiana, and Washington that use the jungle primary format to send the top two candidates to the general election, Alaska will instead advance the top four from the slate primary. The change virtually ensures that Sen. Murkowski will not again lose the Republican primary as she did in the 2010 election. In that year, she was forced to run a highly efficient general election write-in operation to win her second full term.

Early polling numbers find Sen. Murkowski with very poor favorability numbers among Republicans and running a distant third behind Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is already the state Republican Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Dr. Al Gross (D), the 2020 Senate nominee, has not yet committed to running again, but he, too, runs ahead of the Senator in the previously released surveys.

While the top four system guarantees Sen. Murkowski will secure a ballot position for the general election, winning her re-election is in doubt.


Sen. Grassley:

State: Iowa
First Elected: 1980
Re-elected: 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 89
Victory Margin 2016: 60.1 – 35.7%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Jim Carlin (R) – State Senator; former State Representative
• Glenn Hurst (D) – Minden City Councilman; Physician
• Dave Muhlbauer (D) – Ex-Crawford County Commissioner; Farmer

Last week Sen. Grassley stated that he would make his political plan public before Nov. 1. Despite his advanced age, it is presumed in all sectors now that Sen. Grassley will seek re-election. He has filed a 2022 campaign committee with the FEC, has a semi-updated website, and it will be interesting to see how active his fundraising became in the second quarter. His March 31 report revealed a cash-on-hand figure of $2.04 million to begin the re-election cycle.

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Poll: Murkowski Trailing Badly

By Jim Ellis

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

June 10, 2010 — A new Alaska statewide political survey suggests that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is in serious danger of losing her coming re-election campaign.

Change Research, polling for the 314 Action Fund, an organization committed to electing more scientists to public office, conducted a study of the Alaska electorate and found incumbent Sen. Murkowski, who is looking to win a fourth full term, (R) faring poorly.

The poll (May 22-25; released June 9; 1,023 likely Alaska voters, online) tested Murkowski against announced Republican opponent Kelly Tshibaka, the former Alaska Commissioner of Administration, Dr. Al Gross, the 2020 Senate Democratic nominee who lost 54-41 percent to Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan, and John Wayne Howe of the Alaska Independence Party.

In 2020, Alaska voters adopted a new ballot procedure initiative that changes the state’s nomination system into a unique “top four” jungle primary. This means the four candidates attracting the most votes in the initial election all advance into the general election.

With Sen. Murkowski having trouble within her own Republican Party, this system prevents her from again facing a closed partisan primary like the one she lost in 2010, since it is difficult to fathom she or any other incumbent failing to even place fourth in a primary election. In the year she lost re-nomination, Sen. Murkowski was able to quickly rebound and win as a write-in general election candidate.

While the top-four system likely helps Sen. Murkowski, the new general election system may not play to her favor. After the top four candidates qualify, the ranked-choice voting system takes effect to decide the general election. This means voters will rank the candidates from 1 through 4.

Once the fourth place finisher is determined, assuming no one has reached 50 percent, those voters who rank the fourth place finisher as number 1 have their ballots retrieved and their second choice is added to the remaining totals. This process continues in rounds until one candidate secures majority support.

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