ABC News reports that Alaska’s incumbent senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, is projected to win reelection against another Republican opponent, Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka, and that Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, is projected to win reelection to her at-large House seat against Republican challenger Sarah Palin.
The projections come after the Alaska Division of Elections on Wednesday night revealed the results of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system and are some of the last outstanding races of the 2022 midterm elections.
Even with the Murkowski projection, power in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate remains at 50-49 since the last remaining Senate candidates in Alaska were both Republicans. The final outcome of the seat count in the Senate will be determined by a Dec. 6 runoff election in Georgia between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker.
With Peltola’s projected win, Democrats have 213 seats in a Republican-controlled House.
The unusually tight contests featured Murkowski, a moderate Republican who supports abortion rights and who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Tshibaka, a staunch Trump supporter who previously served as a commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration.
Peltola, reelected as the first Democrat to occupy the seat since the early 1970s, faced a rematch with former Republican vice president nominee Palin — and all the races were determined through a lengthy ranked-choice voting process because none of the candidates in the Alaska Senate or House races received 50% of the vote on Nov. 8.
According to the new election system, approved by Alaskans in 2020, contests where neither candidate reached the majority mark eliminated the individual who finished with the lowest number of votes. If a voter had chosen that last-place candidate, their vote then goes to their second choice. If a voter’s first choice was not eliminated, their vote stays with that candidate. The votes are then counted again.
Murkowski, an ardent ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has served in the Senate for 20 years after her father resigned to become the governor of Alaska and appointed her to take his place. Murkowski is the only Republican senator on the ballot this year who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial– a political target of the former president, who has said she is “one of the worst senators even imaginable.” Murkowski also opposed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tshibaka, however, was ahead of the incumbent Murkowski until Friday. When the race went to a second round, Tshibaka had 44% of 71% of the expected vote reporting, followed by Murkowski with 43%, Democratic candidate Patricia Chesbro with 10% and Republican candidate Buzz Kelley with 3%.
Upon the news that she squeaked ahead, Murkowski’s campaign tweeted a GIF mocking her Republican challenger. Following Democrat Mary Peltola’s victory in a special election for Alaska’s House seat earlier this year, Republicans heavily criticized Alaska’s ranked-choice voting.
“And just like that … Kelly’s claim that she only lost because of Ranked Choice was gone,” text accompanying the GIF states.
The Murkowski campaign said Monday they were not concerned about chances that the incumbent may not be victorious, stating that any outstanding votes would “break favorably for Lisa Murkowski.”
Peltola also did not cross the 50% threshold on Nov. 8, but handily won the House seat in August during a special election when a similar ranked-choice scenario played out to fill the place of Rep. Don Young, a Republican who died in March after representing the state in the House for nearly half a century.
ABC News’ Nadine El-Bawab and Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.