While Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unequivocally said back in January that she was running for re-election, she’s sounding a lot less certain now. When reporters asked her when she would decide, Murkowski responded, “Well, I have to do it before 2022, right?” If Murkowski does choose to retire, it would mark the first time that an incumbent senator has not sought re-election in Alaska since it became a state in 1959.
One person who would be incredibly happy if Murkowski decided to call it a career is Donald Trump, who talked about trying to unseat her even before she voted to remove him from office in January. However, while Trump has continued to make it clear he’d try and beat Murkowski if she ran again, the Washington Post reported in March that some members of his inner-circle are skeptical “that he will be as much of a potent force in the race because traveling to campaign against her would require such a long flight, which Trump generally avoids.”
If Murkowski did seek a fourth full term, she would be competing under very different electoral rules that could make it easier for her to fend off a hard-right challenger regardless of whether Trump bothered to campaign in person for them. Last year, Alaska voters approved a referendum that would require all parties to now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff, which could allow Murkowski to win if enough voters favor her over Trump’s choice.
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