Trump alums sign up with new Murkowski opponent

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has drawn a 2022 Republican opponent who’s signed on key Trumpworld figures to help guide her campaign.

Kelly Tshibaka, the state commissioner of administration, announced Monday that she would step down from her state job and challenge Murkowski, a vocal critic of Donald Trump whom the former president has vowed to oppose in next year’s midterm elections.

Tshibaka has tapped National Public Affairs, a consulting firm made up of Trump’s top 2020 campaign advisers, to help oversee her effort. Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark and battleground states director Nick Trainer, who relaunched the firm after the presidential election, will serve as Tshibaka’s senior advisers.

The candidate has also signed on Tim Murtaugh, who was communications director on Trump’s reelection effort, to serve as a senior communications adviser. Mary Ann Pruitt, an Alaska-based political consultant who was a senior figure on Murkowski’s successful 2016 reelection campaign, has abandoned the senator and is working for Tshibaka.

The involvement underscores Trumpworld’s antipathy toward Murkowski, who was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict the former president for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Trump has said he will work to defeat Murkowski, telling POLITICO earlier this month: “I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad senator.”

Trump called out Murkowski during his February appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and his political team earlier in the year commissioned a poll showing the Alaska senator vulnerable in her home state.

Trump himself did not recruit Tshibaka, though people in his orbit have been on the hunt for a credible Murkowski opponent to on senator’s right flank, a person familiar with the matter said. The former president has yet to endorse a specific candidate in the race.

Trump and Murkowski have sparred extensively. The senator voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and she opposed the former president’s decision to name a replacement to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg right before the election. Murkowski said earlier this year she didn’t support Trump’s reelection in November, though she declined to disclose whom she voted for.

Alaska’s state Republican Party censured the 63-year-old Murkowski earlier this month, a rebuke similar to the ones other Republican impeachment backers received back home.

But unseating Murkowski, who first assumed office in 2002 and is the daughter of Frank Murkowski, the former senator and governor, won’t be easy. Alaska has implemented a new ranked-choice voting system, with the top four finishers of an all-party August primary advancing to the general election.

As a result, Murkowski won’t face the pressure of a Republican primary such as the one she had in 2010, when she lost renomination to a conservative candidate, Joe Miller. Murkowski ultimately waged a successful write-in bid that year and won reelection.

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