At debate, Alaska US Senate candidates show clear contrast on abortion rights

The candidates stand behind lecterns on a debate stage
Candidates for U.S. Senate take questions at Debate for the State, produced by Alaska Public Media, KTOO and Alaska’s News Source on Thursday, October 27, 2022. (Photo by Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

Watch the full debate here.

The policy differences on abortion rights, Supreme Court confirmations and gun rights between Alaska’s three candidates for U.S. Senate were clear during a debate on Thursday.

Incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski, Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro appeared together for Debate for the State. It was the third and final in a televised series featuring the candidates for statewide offices.

On abortion, Tshibaka said she supports a national ban that takes effect “sometime in the second trimester.” She said she also supports making birth control available without prescriptions, through the mail.

Murkowksi said she supports turning the abortion rights from the Roe v. Wade case, which the Supreme Court recently overturned, into law. But with some limits, such as letting medical providers with personal objections opt out and limiting the use of federal funds for abortions.

Chesbro said she’s pro-choice.

“I think it needs to be up to the discretion of the individual, not anyone else,” she said. “I think it has to be a very difficult decision. And I think we need to let people make those decisions on their own.”

On the Senate’s process for confirming nominees to the Supreme Court, Murkowski said it’s become an exercise in partisan rubber-stamping and obstruction. She wants senators to actually examine the nominees’ qualifications.

Chesbro agreed.

Tshibaka said the process is fine and she will simply support “constitutionalist” nominees. Constitutionalists interpret the country’s founding document strictly, as opposed to as a living document that changes with the times.

On gun rights, Chesbro alone said she’d support a ban on assault-style weapons.

Murkowski and Chesbro’s interactions were collegial. Tshibaka and Murkowski were much cooler. Throughout the debate, Tshibaka only referred to Murkowski as “the incumbent.”

Tsihbaka painted Murkowski as ineffective, supportive of Biden administration initiatives she called extreme, and buoyed by outside interests and money.

“When I talk to Alaskans, we just don’t want a senator who’s bought and bullied by the D.C. establishment,” Tshibaka said. “We want somebody that represents our Alaska independent voices.”

Murkowski said her record shows her commitment to Alaska, and that third-party political groups are beyond any candidates’ control. She fired back at Tshibaka.

“Frankly, she’s been gone from the state for 28 years and she’s out of touch with Alaskans and what Alaskans expect and want,” Murkowski said. “Alaskans want results, they don’t want partisan political rhetoric.”

Alaska Public Media, KTOO and Alaska’s News Source produced the debate that aired statewide on television and radio. Watch our Oct. 19 debate with Alaska’s governor candidates here and Oct. 26 debate with U.S. House candidates here.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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