Fourth-place finisher Buzz Kelley suspends campaign for U.S. Senate, backs Tshibaka

A man stands wearing a hoodie that says "hard right turn" on it
Republic candidate for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat Buzz Kelley suspended his campaign Sept. 12, 2022. (Campaign photo)

Republican Buzz Kelley, who finished fourth in Alaska’s U.S. Senate primary race, is suspending his campaign and asking his supporters to vote for fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka.

The 65-year-old retired mechanic from Wasilla got just over 2% of the vote, qualifying him for the ballot behind Alaska’s sitting U.S. Senator Republican Lisa Murkowski, Tshibaka and Democrat Patricia Chesbro.

Kelley first announced the suspension of his campaign Monday morning on the Dan Fagan Show on radio station KENI. He referred to Democrat Mary Peltola’s recent House victory.

“After the Peltola victory over Sarah and Nick, it’s pretty clear that the old divide and conquer still works. And I don’t want to cause Kelly Tshibaka any problems and want to throw my support and (am) asking all the people that supported me or my ideas to throw their support behind Kelly Tshibaka, and we’ll see how it goes,” Kelley said on the phone Monday afternoon.

Calling Murkowski a “RINO,” he said she isn’t a good candidate and wants to see her move on. RINO is short for “Republican in name only.” Tshibaka, he said, is more aligned with his values.

“Kelly is to the right of Murkowski and I’m to the right of Kelly Tshibaka,” he said.

Kelley’s name will still appear on the ballot.

Kelley missed the Alaska Division of Elections’ Sept. 5 withdrawal deadline, “and there’s a reason for that,” he said.

The fifth-place finisher behind Kelley with 1.05% of the votes was Republican Pat Nolin. Had Kelley withdrawn in time, Nolin would have moved up to fourth place and been on the general election ballot.

“So there again, that would muddy the water between Murkowski and Tshibaka and I just don’t want to do that,” he said. “I’m rooting for Kelly Tshibaka and it’s going to be a hard fight anyway because she’s consistently behind Murkowski in votes, and Kelly’s going to need all the votes she can get, and it’s still going to be close.”

In official results, Murkowski led the primary with about 45% of the votes, Tshibaka came in second with 38.55% and Chesbro had 6.82%.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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