Murkowski says disqualifying Trump would be ‘politically fraught with peril’

Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday that it may be legal for state courts to disqualify former President Donald Trump from running in the 2024 election, but that doing so would be “politically fraught with peril.”

“It is going to be dangerous if it is viewed by the people that the courts have denied them the opportunity to vote for somebody that they want to vote for,” said Murkowski, an outspoken Trump critic.

Murkowski’s comments came after the Colorado Supreme Court issued a historic ruling earlier in the week, which deemed that Trump was ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 Republican presidential primary election ballot after the court determined he engaged in an insurrection by encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol. Lawsuits have been filed in dozens of states — including Alaska — challenging Trump’s eligibility to run again.

Murkowski was one of seven Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 after Jan. 6. At the time, Murkowski said that Trump, a fellow Republican, should resign and that it would be appropriate to bar him from ever holding office again.

“I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” she said two days after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by hundreds of Trump supporters.

The impeachment vote was narrowly approved in the U.S. House, but the Senate failed to meet the required two-thirds vote threshold to convict the then-president.

[Supreme Court says no, for now, to plea for quick ruling on whether Trump is immune from prosecution]


Murkowski said Friday that she thought “there are probably legitimate grounds for the Colorado decision” but that in “a very polarized, very contentious political environment,” it would be “politically fraught with peril” for voters who feel that the courts have denied them the opportunity to vote for the candidate they want.

Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan did not directly answer questions from the Daily News. But on Friday night, he posted on X, formerly Twitter, criticizing the ruling: “You don’t ‘preserve’ democracy by removing candidates from the ballot. The Colorado court’s ruling to bar former President Trump sets a dangerous legal precedent that — if allowed to stand — will inevitably be wielded against candidates of both parties.”

Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, declined to comment on the ruling.

After the Colorado decision was issued, the Trump campaign said that it would immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Murkowski said she hoped that the Supreme Court would hear and dispose of the appeal quickly with the first 2024 presidential primaries set to start in a matter of weeks.

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential run, said in a social media post that the Colorado Supreme Court had made “an awful decision to disenfranchise the people of Colorado,” but that he had thought the U.S. Supreme Court would reverse the decision.

In late November, Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor joined 18 Republican attorneys general who signed an amicus brief in the Colorado case, arguing that a state court should not intervene and determine if a candidate has engaged in an insurrection.

Patty Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Law, said that given the likelihood of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, “we’re glad that it will have the chance to interpret these important national and federal constitutional issues. We’ll evaluate requests to join amicus briefs as we receive them.”

After his first post to social media, Dunleavy quickly posted again, asking, “What crime was Donald Trump convicted of?”

[Trump’s GOP presidential rivals join in criticism of Colorado Supreme Court ruling]

Trump faces 91 felony charges, including ones related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. He has pleaded not guilty to all, and has yet to be convicted.

Alaska challenge

Texas attorney John Anthony Castro, a virtually unknown Republican presidential candidate, filed lawsuits in 25 states challenging Trump’s eligibility to appear on the 2024 ballot, arguing that he engaged in an insurrection. Castro filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in September, but a first hearing in the case has not been scheduled.

Republican Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, who is in charge of managing the state’s election system, was named in the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Sullivan said the Department of Law has not been served with the lawsuit, and could not comment on it.

Alaska election attorneys Scott Kendall and Stacey Stone both said they expect the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a decision on Trump’s eligibility to appear on ballots nationwide long before the Alaska challenge is decided.

Sullivan noted that Castro has voluntarily dismissed his legal challenges in several other states, and the law department is not sure whether he will continue to pursue the case in Alaska. Castro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thirteen states have legal challenges pending from Castro and other plaintiffs, according to Lawfare, a nonprofit law publication. Two other states have appeals pending. Stone said she anticipated that federal court judges would not rule in a similar way to the Colorado Supreme Court. She said federal judges in Alaska have typically shown “a strict interpretation of constitutional law,” meaning an insurrection conviction could be required before they would decide to disqualify Trump from the general election ballot.

In Alaska, presidential primaries are not run by the state. Instead, they are managed by political parties. The winners of the party-run primaries appear on the general election ballot. Independent candidates can also file petitions to appear on the general election ballot. In 2024, Alaska is set to use ranked choice voting in the presidential election.

Ann Brown, chair of the Alaska Republican Party, said she did not expect the Colorado Supreme Court ruling to affect whether Trump would be in contention to become Alaska’s Republican nominee for president.


The Alaska Republican Party’s presidential preference poll is scheduled to take place March 5. Only registered Alaska Republicans can vote in the closed caucus.

Even if Trump wins the Republican nomination, additional legal challenges to Trump’s eligibility to hold office could be filed. Stone said election challenges in Alaska state courts have typically been heard after voting takes place.

The attitude of state judges has usually been, “We’re not going to vet people to run but we can vet people to hold office,” said Stone.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at smaguire@adn.com.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.