The U.S. Senate isn’t the red wave conservatives hoped to surf this election season. As of Thursday, control of the Senate is still up for grabs with 48 Democrats and 49 Republicans holding seats.
Georgia faces a runoff, and Nevada and Arizona are not yet wins for Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris could return as the tie-breaker when the new session starts in January, and Sen. Chuck Schumer may very well return as majority leader.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a less-than-reliable Republican, is paddling back to Washington to rejoin that McConnell minority, thanks to Alaska’s open primary and ranked choice voting that set her up to fend off challenges from both the right and left. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled her to an almost certain victory with his $7 million ad spend. (RELATED: DOWNING: McConnell Eats His Own In Alaska)
In the U.S. House races, Republicans look to take control, but not by as wide a margin as they had planned: Republicans so-far hold 209 seats while Democrats have 191. It appears Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola will join the minority Democrats.
Thus, Alaska has one of the most incoherent results of all 50 states: A solid Republican governor, who is pro-life and pro-freedom, won handily. A Democrat-embracing senator who is Alaska’s version of Neville Chamberlain, will return to the political fold of President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell. To top it off, a far-left Democrat who supports gun control and would vote to pack the Supreme Court is a lock for the House of Representatives.
It’s all still up in the air, thanks to counting delays caused by Ballot Measure 2 of 2020, which ushered in the combination of a jungle primary election and a ranked choice voting general election.
How does Sen. Murkowski win when she is slightly behind Kelly Tshibaka? Murkowski, who was opposed by former President Donald Trump and censured and alienated from the Alaska Republican Party, will win with a big helping of second-round votes of Democrat candidate Pat Chesbro.
That was the plan from the beginning, of course — find a weak and compliant Democrat to run as a placeholder. Democrats represent 12.8% of registered voters, which is why Murkowski and the Democrats have had a symbiotic relationship; neither can seem to live without the other.
Murkowski’s opponent from the right, Tshibaka, did yeoman’s work as a first-time candidate, keeping Murkowski from reaching the magic 50%+1 threshold needed to avoid going into the instant runoff rounds of counting, a process which will not take place until Nov. 23.
Now to the House: Rep. Peltola, a member of the party with a small fraction of registered Alaska voters, is poised to win with second-round votes from Sarah Palin and Nick Begich. There is still a snowball’s chance that Palin or Begich could pull off a Thanksgiving miracle, when the ranked choice race results get reshuffled, and when Libertarian Chris Bye is eliminated, with his voters’ getting to have their second choice counted.
There is a bright spot in all this. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who was endorsed by Trump but ran his own race during this election cycle, is easily heading for an historic second term, the first time a Republican governor has won reelection in Alaska since Gov. Jay Hammond in 1978.
Among the three disparate statewide election results, his is a sweet victory for Republicans, who watched in frustration as he was hounded by a savage recall campaign that started against him just 12 weeks after he took office in 2018, and which hobbled his first three years.
Dunleavy is the win that conservatives in Alaska can cherish. Even so, Alaska Republicans don’t have a lot to crow about in 2022. The GOP lost its endorsed Senate and House candidates, and has ceded to a Democrat the one congressional seat the state has, a seat the majority party had held for nearly 49 years.
While not a disaster for the red team, the Nov. 8 election has given 49th state conservatives a case of the post-election blues.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.
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