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Joaqlin Estus
ICT

They’re both Republicans in sparsely populated heavily Republican states. One lost in her primary; the other didn’t.

What’s deciding the different fates of Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski?

It’s likely Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system together with Alaskans’ independent streak, say political analysts.

In Wyoming, Cheney lost in the primary for her Congressional seat to previously little known Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, who was buoyed by former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Cheney lost 49,316 to 113,025 or 28.9 percent to Hageman’s 66.4 percent. Cheney is vice-chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In Alaska’s primary U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski took 45 percent of the vote followed by Trump supporter Republican Kelly Tshibaka with 38.58 percent. Democrat Pat Chesbro won 6.83 percent and Republican Buzz Kelly took 2.13 percent. Murkowski was one of a handful of Senate Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment.

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Pre-election polling showed Murkowski losing among Republicans. However, this was the first election to make use of an open primary and ranked choice voting, a system Alaskans adopted by election in 2021. The four will be listed in the Nov. 8 election. Voters will rank their choices.

Fivethirtyeight’s Nathaniel Rakich on Aug. 17, 2022 commented, “Alaska’s new system really saved her (Murkowski’s) bacon. Of course, if you just look at things literally, Murkowski is still currently the top Republican vote-getter, and will probably stay that way. But also, a lot of her votes are coming from independents and Democrats who probably would not have participated in a traditional Republican primary.

(Related: Alaska Native elected to Congress - ICT)
(Related: Organizers, state face hurdles to getting out Alaska Native vote - ICT)

As the New York Times said, “Both (the Wyoming and Alaska) races captured the fierce division among Republicans across the country and gave a glimpse into the independent and libertarian streak unique to Alaskan politics. They also underscored the surprising sway of Democrats in what has been a reliably red state, as well as the power of Native voters, a sizable electorate that does not predictably break for either party…More than 15 percent of Alaska’s population identifies as Indigenous.”

Fivethirtyeight’s Alex Samuels commented that had Murkowski “voted not to confirm now-Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, maybe she would’ve been able to shore up her standing with conservatives. But, on the other hand, her yes vote maybe helped bolster her coalition of centrist Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans to make up for those on the right who have abandoned her because of her frequent defections from the party line.”

Murkowski was defeated from the right in the 2010 primary, and the Republican party backed her opponent, a Tea Party Republican. A historic write-in campaign kept her in her Senate seat.

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