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Alaska GOP turns on Sen. Lisa Murkowski, endorses her rival

The Alaska Republican State Central Committee endorsed Lisa Murkowski's primary rival, advancing the purge of Trump's GOP detractors.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been one of Congress' most interesting Republican members in recent years, by repeatedly showing an independent streak most GOP lawmakers have taken pains to avoid.

As regular readers may recall, when her party tried to replace the Affordable Care Act with a far-right alternative, the Alaskan balked. When her party rallied behind Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, Murkowski was the only GOP senator to vote "no." Early last year, Murkowski didn't vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial, but she was one of a small handful of GOP senators to concede that the then-president's extortion scheme was wrong.

A year later, after Trump incited an insurrectionist riot and tried to overturn his election defeat, the Alaskan went even further, calling for his resignation and voting to convict in his second impeachment trial.

It'd be an exaggeration to suggest Murkowski has been a center-left voice within her party -- she did vote with the Trump White House more than 72% of the time -- but more so than most Republicans, she's been uncomfortable with her party's radical descent.

Republican leaders in Alaska haven't been impressed. In March, the state GOP's leaders formally censured Murkowski for failing to remain loyal to Trump. Over the weekend, as the Anchorage Daily News reported, the party went quite a bit further.

The Alaska Republican State Central Committee on Saturday endorsed Kelly Tshibaka in the 2022 race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Lisa Murkowski. The committee approved Tshibaka's endorsement in a 58-17 vote during a meeting in Fairbanks.

At face value, some may not find this surprising. Trump threw his support behind Tshibaka nearly a month ago, and the Alaska GOP appears eager to align itself with the former president's wishes. What's more, Tshibaka has been unapologetic in claiming the mantle of her party's radical wing.

But it's important to acknowledge the fact that none of this is normal. State parties, just as a matter of course, support their own Senate incumbents' re-election campaigns.

At least, they used to. Last week, the chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party endorsed Sen. James Lankford's (R) primary rival because the incumbent senator opposed an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. As Lankford noted soon after, such an endorsement is effectively "unheard of."

But as highly unusual as this was, the news out of Alaska was even more dramatic: Murkowski hasn't just been rejected by her state party chair, the Alaska Republican State Central Committee backed her intra-party rival in a lopsided vote.

As a practical matter, the incumbent senator may not care. After all, she won in 2010 -- as a write-in candidate -- after losing a GOP primary to a far-right rival. What's more, Alaska recently approved new electoral reforms, which create a ranked-choice/top-four model, changing the primary calculus.

But the bottom line remains the same: the Republican Party's purge of Trump's detractors continues.