Speed Reads

Alaska Nice

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola endorse each other's re-election bids

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was asked on Friday whether she will vote for Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) in the November election, putting her first on the state's new ranked-choice ballot, and Murkowski hesitated then said yes, mumbling, "I'm going to get in so much trouble," The Washington Post reports. A "reporter from a national newspaper" asked Murkowski why a Republican senator would praise a Democratic congresswoman, the Anchorage Daily News reports, and Murkowski smiled and said, "You can tell she's a D.C. reporter."

"In Alaska, I think it's still different. Mary is a friend," Murkowski said. "We have been friends for 25 years, and the fact that we're Republican and Democrat has never interfered with that friendship." Peltola, who won a special election to finish the term of late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and is running for a full term, reciprocated Murkowski's de facto endorsement on Monday: "I'm voting for her, so we're even-steven." 

Murkowski and Peltola are from different political parties, but they are both facing candidates backed by former President Donald Trump in a state Trump won by 10 percentage points, Axios notes. Peltola, the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, is running again against former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Republican Nick Begich III, while both Trump and the Alaska Republican Party have endorsed Murkowski challenger Kelly Tshibaka. 

Murkowski and Peltola are both "running as abortion rights moderates who are independent-minded consensus-builders focused on Alaska's needs," and polls show they are much more popular than their rivals —  Young's family has endorsed Peltola and even Palin says she loves her, the Post reports.

Peltola and Murkowski also both have the enthusiastic backing of Alaska Natives, including unanimous endorsements from the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest organization representing Alaska tribes, and other Alaska Native organizations. 

Alaska Natives make up bout 15 percent of the state's population and half its rural residents, and they usually vote at lower rates than city-dwelling Alaskans. "But Mary Peltola is a total game changer, and that's good for Murkowski," Ivan Moore, a pollster with Alaska Survey Research, tells the Post.

About 58 percent of Alaska's 600,000 voters are independents, too. Republicans blame Peltola's surprise victory on the state's new ranked-choice voting system, and there's some truth in that, Politico reports. But her win — or more specifically, Palin's loss — has also "revealed something alarming for Republicans about the limitations of a MAGA personality's appeal in the post-Donald Trump presidential era — not just in Alaska, but in the Lower 48, as well."