Alaska's Murkowski to face GOP challenge from state official Kelly Tshibaka

March 29, 2021 - Originally published on Fox News.com

EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Tshibaka, Alaska's Commissioner of Administration, is expected to announce a Republican primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2022 midterms, Fox News has learned.

Tshibaka, who is set to announce her candidacy Monday, describes herself as a candidate to represent "a new generation of Alaska conservatives" and says she'll portray herself as the candidate to rebuild the Alaskan economy, defend and rejuvinate small businesses and fight to protect the jobs of Alaskans in the energy industry.

Tshibaka will also campaign as a strong opponent to illegal immigration, a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and an advocate for the military. Her campaign also called her "unapologetically pro-life."

"We know what Washington, D.C. thinks about Alaska: We’re here for their benefit, and we won’t put up much of a fight. After nearly 20 years in D.C., Lisa Murkowski thinks the same way," Tshibaka says in a video being released by her campaign Monday. "But you know what? Nothing scares the D.C. political insiders more than the thought of a strong, independent Alaskan leader in their ranks. One they can’t bully. One they can't control. One they can't silence."

She added: "I believe in a better future for Alaska. One we can rise up together and rebuild."

"I'm running for the Alaskans who believe government is of the people, by the people, and for the people," she continued. "The D.C. insiders need to be held accountable to us."

Tshibaka's announcement comes weeks after former President Donald Trump vowed to target Murkowski in the 2022 midterm elections -- promising to travel to Alaska to campaign against her.

Trump, in a statement to Politico earlier this month, said he would "not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski."

"She represents her state badly and her country even worse," Trump said. "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."

Murkowski was a critic of Trump throughout his administration, and was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict him in February during his second Senate impeachment trial. Trump was impeached by the House for inciting insurrection during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Senate ultimately voted to acquit him.

Earlier this month, the Alaska Republican Party voted to censure Murkowski for her vote to convict Trump for her impeachment trial vote, and for several other votes she took that have angered Republicans in the state.

TRUMP VOWS TO CAMPAIGN AGAINST ALASKA'S MURKOWSKI

Among those votes, according to the resolution, are her opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, voting "present" rather than in support of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and her support this month for the confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland as interior secretary. Murkowski and Alaska's other senator – Dan Sullivan – were among four Senate Republicans who voted to confirm Haaland this week as the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.

Besides censuring Murkowski – a move that other state Republican parties have taken against House and Senate lawmakers from their states who voted to impeach or convict Trump – the resolution also states that "the party hereby will recruit a Republican primary challenger to oppose and prohibit Sen. Murkowski from being a candidate in any Republican primary to the extent legally permissible."

But Murkowski is not a stranger to opposition within her own party. When she was running for reelection in 2010, the senator lost the GOP primary to Tea Party challenger Joe Miller, who was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Murkowski, though, following her primary defeat, launched a write-in campaign and won the general election.

Murkowski first entered the Senate after her father, then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, was elected governor of Alaska. He then appointed his daughter to his seat in 2002.

MURKOWSKI BACKS HAALAND DESPITE ‘MISGIVINGS’ ABOUT OIL, GAS RESTRICTIONS FOR ALASKA

But Tshibaka is casting Murkowski as a Washington insider, and herself as a candidate who will work for the people of the state of Alaska.

"It is time we had a U.S. senator who represents Alaska to Washington, D.C., rather than one who represents D.C. insiders to Alaska," Tshibaka said.

Tshibaka was born and raised in Alaska, and was the first in her family to pursue a college degree, and went on to law school. Her father who was a union electrician and Vietnam War veteran, and her mother was one of the first workers at the startup of Prudhoe Bay. Her parents were homeless and living in a tent at one point but "fought their way into the middle class."

Tshibaka, in her political career, has served as acting inspector general for the Federal Trade Commission, counsel to the Inspector General in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and in the Office of Inspector General within the Justice Department.

Tshibaka, prior to working in Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration, was the chief data officer for the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service Office under both former President Trump and former President Obama.

Tshibaka lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband and five children.

Tshibaka is competing in an all-party primary in August 2022, after Alaska voters passed a ballot measure last year.

Candidates of any party will be on the same ballot in the state's August 2022 primary, with the top four contenders advancing to the November general election, which will use ranked choice voting.

The contest, at this point, would include Tshibaka and Bob Lochner, who ran against Murkowski during her last election in 2016. Murkowski has not formally announced her bid for re-election.

As for Democratic candidates, a source familiar said because of Murkowski's "weakness," and relative low cost of television advertising in Alaska, national Democrats "are sure to field a candidate in the race."

Meanwhile, Tshibaka is expected to resign from her post as commissioner of administration before she announces her campaign.