Politics

Trump again endorses Dunleavy for Alaska governor — but only if he doesn’t back Murkowski

Governor Dunleavy President Trump JBER

Former President Donald Trump issued a conditional endorsement of Gov. Mike Dunleavy for reelection on Tuesday, saying the incumbent governor has his support — but only if he doesn’t back U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her bid for reelection.

Dunleavy, who has five challengers to date, thanked Trump for his support.

“He has my Complete and Total Endorsement,” said Trump’s message, sent by email from the former president’s political action committee, “but this endorsement is subject to his non-endorsement of Senator Lisa Murkowski who has been very bad for Alaska, including losing ANWAR, perhaps the most important drilling site in the world, and much else.”

“ANWAR” appeared to be a reference to ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Murkowski helped open to drilling with a provision she inserted into federal law in 2017.

A spokesperson for Murkowski’s campaign could not be reached Tuesday. Murkowski, generally considered among the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, was appointed in 2002 by her father, former Sen. and Gov. Frank Murkowski, and was subsequently elected in 2004, 2010 and 2016.

Asked whether he will accept the endorsement, Dunleavy issued a written statement thanking Trump for his support.

“I want to thank President Trump for his endorsement,” Dunleavy said. “We had a very good working relationship on the issues that are important to Alaska, in particular resource development. No president has done more for Alaska than President Trump and I appreciate his support.”

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[Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer will not run for re-election in 2022, leaving Dunleavy to find new running mate]

Andrew Jensen, a spokesman for Dunleavy’s campaign, said he doesn’t believe the governor has any intention to get involved with the U.S. Senate race.

“The governor is focused on his race,” Jensen said.

Trump endorsed Dunleavy — without any conditions — in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

Several of the president’s former aides are now working on the campaign of Murkowski’s principal Republican opponent, former state Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka.

Tshibaka has criticized Murkowski for voting to confirm several Biden administration appointees, including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Under Haaland, the Interior Department suspended oil and gas leases in the refuge.

Murkowski has continued to support drilling in the refuge, and an ongoing lawsuit could overturn the suspension.

Asked about the conditional Trump endorsement, Tshibaka campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, “We certainly don’t believe Lisa Murkowski deserves anyone’s endorsement.”

Murtaugh was communications director of Trump’s national 2020 re-election campaign.

When asked whether the Tshibaka campaign requested the condition attached to Trump’s endorsement of Dunleavy, Murtaugh said, “we decline to comment on that.”

Murkowski was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Fifty-seven votes were cast in favor of conviction, nine short of the two-thirds majority needed. The day after the attack, Murkowski said in a video that it was “incited from the highest level.”

Since then, Trump has urged Alaskans to reject Murkowski. “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 told political news site Politico in March, after Murkowski voted to advance Haaland’s nomination.

Trump unconditionally endorsed Tshibaka in June, following a meeting between the two at Trump Tower in New York City. (Her campaign in November announced plans for a Trump-hosted fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in early 2022.) The Alaska Republican Party’s central committee also endorsed Tshibaka in July.

Before those endorsements, Murkowski received the support of her fellow Alaska incumbent, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. Both senators declined to endorse Trump for president in 2016, but Sullivan backed him in 2020.

As of Tuesday evening, six candidates, including Dunleavy, had registered as candidates for the governor’s race with either the Alaska Division of Elections or the Alaska Public Offices Commission. The deadline to enter the race is June 1.

Ten candidates have registered with the Alaska Division of Elections to run for Alaska’s Senate seat in 2022, and that figure does not include Tshibaka. The deadline to register for that race is also June 1.

In both races, four candidates will advance from the August primary to the November general election, where winners will be chosen with ranked-choice voting.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.

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