(NewsNation) — A Republican candidate is projected to win Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat, but NewsNation/ Decision Desk HQ cannot project a specific candidate due to the state’s ranked choice voting system.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has held the seat for nearly 20 years continuing her family legacy, was locked in a reelection bid against fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Patricia Chesbro. The candidates advanced from an August top-four primary (one challenger has since dropped out). This is the first time Alaska used such a system in a Senate race since voters approved the concept in 2020.
In Alaska, voters rank the candidates one through four. If no candidate wins at least 50% of the vote, the lowest-performing candidate is removed from consideration. The state will count the second place votes of anyone who voted for the removed candidate. The process continues until someone reaches a majority.
Murkowski notably took on former President Donald Trump, voting against her party multiple times and even voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol, earning his ire. Murkowski was also censured by the state’s Republican Party after she voted to convict Trump, though she has received backing from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during her bid for reelection.
Trump endorsed Murkowski’s opponent, attorney Tshibaka, and she has also been backed by the state’s GOP. Just weeks before the election, McConnell was censured by the state Republican party for attack ads against Tshibaka.
The rank-choice voting system has created a tight race between the two Republican candidates, though the incumbent Senator has retained support from Alaska Native voters in the state after they proved crucial to her success during her 2010 write-in campaign.
One thing the two GOP rivals have agreed on during the campaign is a need to protect Arctic Alaska from aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin as he wages war in Ukraine. At the Alaska Federation of Natives candidate forum, Murkowski said Putin has “one hand on Ukraine and he’s got another on the Arctic.” Meanwhile, Tshibaka said, “Rural Alaska is the frontlines of national security.”
This projection brings the GOP to 49 Senate seats as of publishing, with results in Nevada, Arizona and Georgia still to come. The Republicans need to win at least two of them to gain control of the chamber.