Palin and Tshibaka are on track to lose but hint at election battles ahead

a portrait of a blonde-haired woman
Kelly Tshibaka speaks to reporters during her election night party in Anchorage. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

Republican congressional candidates Sarah Palin and Kelly Tshibaka are likely to lose their races once the Division of Elections tabulates the ranked choices of Alaska voters, but both candidates are making vague accusations of malfeasance and speaking of unspecified election fights ahead.

So far, Palin’s race appears to be a replay of the August special election, which Democrat Mary Peltola won. Only this time, Peltola’s initial lead is even greater. With just first-choice votes counted so far, Palin is 20 percentage points behind Peltola. Palin could still win if she got enough second-choice ballots, but it’s unlikely.

In social media posts after the election, Palin cast blame on fellow Republicans for splitting the vote, and on Alaska’s ranked choice voting system, which she called “unAmerican.” (The Alaska Supreme Court deemed it legal.)

Palin also made herself out to be a winner and said she’d continue to fight.

“In anticipation of an announcement of victory …. it’s a privilege to announce and appoint Jerry Ward as chief of staff,” she said in a video posted on Twitter and elsewhere.

The final election results won’t be known until second-choices are tabulated, which the Division of Elections announced months ago will occur on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving. Palin, though, tried to cast doubt on the validity of the election and suggested the delay was some kind of “glitch.”

“The Division of Elections alludes to the idea of maybe not having results in the Alaska congressional race until Thanksgiving!” she said.

Jason Grenn, executive director of Alaskans for Better Elections, said there’s no evidence of fraud or corruption of the vote. He said Palin has no cause to undermine faith in Alaska’s election.

“I think Alaskans should be proud of the division elections and proud of the Lieutenant Governor’s office for handling this so well, and also should feel confident in the security of our system,” he said.

Kelly Tshibaka isn’t conceding, either. 

She is ahead of incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate race. But her lead has shrunk to just over one percentage point – fewer than 3,000 votes. Murkowski is expected to overtake her on second-choice votes once Democrat Pat Chesbro is eliminated and her 20,000 ballots are reallocated.

The day after the election, Tshibaka went on a right-wing podcast asking for contributions to help her in possible legal battles ahead.

“We’re anticipating a whole bunch of shenanigans here in these next couple months, between now and January, to try and hold on to the Murkowski monarchy,” she said on Bannon’s Warroom, hosted by Steve Bannon, a former presidential advisor to Donald Trump. “And that’s why I really need your help. Our race is not over and I’m not going to give up this fight.”

Tshibaka did not say how she intended to fight, and whether she intended to initiate one or play defense. She’s previously said she would accept the election outcome, as long as it believed nothing went “super wrong.”

Tshibaka’s campaign did not respond to a request to clarify her remarks. Neither did Palin’s.

Both candidates were supported by former President Trump, who caused national turmoil by refusing to accept that he lost the 2020, though he’s provided no evidence of fraud that has held up in court. Palin has said she believes the unsupported claim of a stolen election. Tshibaka, an attorney, did not go as far but has questioned its legitimacy.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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