Murkowski takes the lead in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race

U.S. Lisa Murkowski speaks to her supporters at her election night party on Nov. 8, 2022. “We are in a good place,” she told the crowd. (Elyssa Loughlin/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. 

In the race for Alaska’s governor, incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is still holding on to his lead, though it shrunk by about a percentage point, with 50.3% of the vote. And incumbent Congresswoman Mary Peltola still has about 49% of the vote in the U.S. House race.

The count just includes first-choice votes so far.

The state Division of Elections tallied about 20,000 additional absentee, questioned and early ballots Friday. 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, ending Alaska’s long election season.

RELATED: Here are the latest vote tallies in Alaska’s first ranked choice general election

In the U.S. Senate race, Murkowski now has 43.3% of the vote to Tshibaka’s 42.7%. Murkowski’s lead is likely to grow once Democrat Pat Chesbro, who finished third in the Nov. 8 election, is eliminated on Wednesday. A large percentage of Chesbro’s nearly 27,000 ballots are likely marked for Murkowski as a second choice.

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.

In the race for governor, Dunleavy ended election night on Nov. 8 with 52% of the vote. His lead has shrunk slightly 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% of the vote, and Independent Bill Walker has 21%. Republican Charlie Pierce trails at less than 5%.

In Alaska’s U.S. House race, the latest update puts Democrat Mary Peltola at 49% to Palin’s 26% and Republican Nick Begich’s 23%. 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 next vote update is expected Wednesday. The ranked choice tabulation is scheduled for 4 p.m. Here’s how to watch.

Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin contributed to this story.

Kavitha George is Alaska Public Media’s climate change reporter. Reach her at Read more about Kavitha here.

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