Murkowski takes lead in Alaska’s US Senate race amid updated results

Lisa Murkowski stands behind a lectern, speaking. The lectern has a painted rock on it that says "Senate"
Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke to reporters at her campaign headquarters on Election Day. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is now ahead of GOP challenger Kelly Tshibaka by 1,658 votes in updated election results Friday, which leaves her almost certain to win reelection.

Her lead is likely to grow once Democrat Pat Chesbro, who finished third in the Nov. 8 election, is eliminated. A large percentage of Chesbro’s nearly 27,000 ballots are likely marked for Murkowski as a second choice. The second and third choices will be tabulated Wednesday.

If that’s how it plays out, it will be a victory over MAGA-style Republicanism. Beating Murkowski was one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest midterm goals. Incensed that Murkowski had voted to convict him after his second impeachment, Trump came to Alaska and held a rally for Tshibaka and U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin this summer.

As of 6 p.m., with more updates expected Friday night, incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is still holding on to his lead, with 50.3% of the vote.

The state Division of Elections has tallied an additional 18,000 absentee, questioned and early ballots so far Friday. The count just includes first-choice votes. All races where no candidate has more than 50% of the vote will head to ranked choice tabulation on Wednesday. In the tabulation round, the bottom candidate is eliminated and their ballots are redistributed according to the voter’s second choice. The elimination process continues until there are two candidates left, and the one with the most votes wins. season.

In the race for governor, Dunleavy ended election night on Nov. 8 with 52% of the vote. His lead has slowly shrunk as more absentee and overseas ballots have been counted, but analysts say even if the race heads to ranked choice tabulation, they expect the governor will secure a second term.

Democrat Les Gara is in second place with 24.2% of the vote, and Independent Bill Walker has 20.7%. Republican Charlie Pierce trails at less than 5%.

In Alaska’s U.S. House race, the latest update puts Democrat Mary Peltola at 48.7% to Palin’s 25.8% and Begich’s 23.4%. If all Begich voters named Palin as their second choice, Palin would win, but that’s highly unlikely, given the animosity between Begich and Palin that lasted through the special election in August and leading up to the Nov. 8 general.

The ranked choice tabulation is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday. Here’s how to watch.

Alaska Public Media

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