Trump rallies his Alaska faithful against Murkowski, for Tshibaka and Palin

Donald Trump briefly stepped aside to let U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka address the rally crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday. (Kendrick Whiteman/Alaska Public Media)

Former President Trump held a campaign rally in Anchorage Saturday, making good on a pledge to come to Alaska and punish U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for turning against him in his last days in office.

“She voted to impeach me. And I did more for this state than any president in history. And that piece of,” he said, pausing to mouth the word “garbage” to the crowd, “voted to impeach me!”

Trump spoke for 90 minutes in the 5,000-seat Alaska Airlines Center. The official count of attendees, according to the Center staff, was almost 5,100. The facility holds 6,000, including standing room.  A crowd also watched on big screens in the parking lot.

The 5,000-seat arena was nearly at capacity by the time Trump took the stage at 4:30 p.m. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Murkowski, opened for Trump, as did former Gov. Sarah Palin, now a candidate in Alaska’s open U.S. House seat. 

Palin had the crowd roaring and cheering as she vilified Democrats, government and the media. She said the stakes are huge in this year’s midterm elections.

 “It’s no longer Democrat versus Republican. This is all about control versus freedom,” she said. “It’s good versus evil. It is a spiritual battle.”

She said she learned from her dad to stiffen her spine and fight back.

“Well, my dad’s words exactly were: ‘Don’t retreat. Reload,’” she said, to loud cheers.

Sarah Palin speaks at a podium, a crowd surrounds her
Sara Palin had the crowd cheering as she vilified Democrats. (Kendrick Whiteman/Alaska Public Media)

The rally was aimed at promoting the campaigns of Palin, Tshibaka and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

When Trump praised Dunleavy, some boos were mixed into the cheering. A number of rally attendees had campaign buttons promoting more conservative challengers, Charlie Pierce and Christopher Kurka.

Dunleavy did not attend the rally. A spokesman said he’s traveling out of state on official business.

But Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson attended, as did spokesman Corey Young. Young said they were not there in an official capacity.

Two men in ties and a woman in a red dress walk into a building
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson attended the rally. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)

Trump delivered a version of his standard rally speech, frequently repeating his lie that he won the 2020 election, but with references to the Alaska candidates, Alaska place names and prominent Alaska Republicans.

He castigated U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan for not denouncing Murkowski.

“Dan Sullivan should never ever have given her an endorsement,” Trump said. “Dan Sullivan should be ashamed of himself.”

Murkowski’s campaign responded after the rally with a few factual corrections. Among other things, Trump claimed among his Alaska successes that he “got … Cove Road, or whatever the hell they call it,” an apparent reference to King Cove road.

 “For 50 years, they’ve been trying to get the highway, right?” he said. “I got that.” 

former President Donald Trump claps his hands as a crowd around him cheers and holds their cellphones up
Donald Trump claps for the crowd. (Kendrick Whiteman/Alaska Public Media)

Murkowski and the entire congressional delegation have been trying to get a road for King Cove. Her father, the former Sen. Frank Murkowski tried for years, too. Murkowski’s campaign notes that it would be a single lane gravel road, not a highway, and it’s not been built yet.

Trump did not say he was running for president in 2024 but he sounded like a candidate.

That would make retiree Denise Dotson, 71, happy. She said she got up at 4 a.m. to drive in from Wasilla and was among the first in line for the Trump rally, at 6 a.m. 

“I hope and pray to God that we can get him back in,” she said. “Because we need God back in our life. We need church back in our life. We need our kids to be taught properly in school, our history, instead of teaching them this gender s–t.”

It wasn’t hard to find Trump fans in the crowd who came from other states to attend.

a couple poses in red-white-and-blue attire outside, in front of a crowd of people waiting in line
Covan Nguyen and Amy Lee live in San Diego, Calif., and traveled to Anchorage for their 17th Trump rally. (Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media)
Hospice nurse Mimi Israelah (center) flew up from California for the event. She’s part of a band of regulars who call themselves “Front Line Joes.” (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Hospice nurse Mimi Israelah flew up from California for the event. She’s part of a band of regulars who call themselves “Front Line Joes.” She said she loves Trump rallies and has been to more than she can count.

“The energy. The excitement. The love, patriotic love, all the time,” she said.  “And I met so many friends that we became like family. So we travel across the country. It’s like a reunion all the time.”

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.