After finishing high school, Ms. Tshibaka left to attend college in Texas, then Harvard Law, before spending 17 years in Washington. She wrote an article praising an organization that advocated gay conversion therapy (she later apologized to anyone she might have offended), described the “Twilight” books and movies as “evil,” and warned against the “addictive” qualities of witchcraft — positions not exactly in line with Alaska voters’ distaste for people telling them how to live their lives.
Both she and Ms. Murkowski have presented themselves as lifelong Alaskans running against the political “establishment” in the rest of the country. But it’s Ms. Tshibaka who salutes the flag at Mar-a-Lago, telling high school students in Nome that Mr. Trump’s policies were “super great for our state.” In February, Mr. Trump hosted a fund-raiser for Ms. Tshibaka at his Florida club, though he then turned around and charged her $14,477 for use of the facilities. She moved back to Alaska only in 2019, when she was hired by the Republican governor, with the state paying $81,000 in moving expenses to bring her and her family north.
Preening for a national audience at CPAC and on conservative talk shows, as Ms. Tshibaka has been doing, could hurt her chances in the August primary. The Democrat who went up against the Republican incumbent senator Dan Sullivan in 2020, Dr. Al Gross, discovered this to his grief. Hosting Zoom calls from his Airstream, courting donors across the country, he raised $19 million, the highest take of any Alaska Senate candidate ever. But come election time, the national exposure seemed to hinder more than help; Dr. Gross lost to Mr. Sullivan by 13 percentage points.
Ms. Murkowski plays a different game.
If history is any guide, soon she’ll arrive at the small airport here in Sitka dressed in fleece and denim, ready to wolf down wilted iceberg lettuce at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, pumping hands with the “cut, kill, dig, drill” flannel-wearing good old boys at Orion Sporting Goods, dancing at Native celebrations.
While I don’t always agree with her, when I watch her work a room, it’s difficult to take seriously Mr. Trump’s prediction that Alaska voters won’t forgive her. The more relevant question seems to be whether Ms. Murkowski will forgive him. “I will tell you, if the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me,” she said shortly after the Capitol riot.
The idea that Mr. Trump could fly up to Alaska and take her down, as he has so many others, could actually win Ms. Murkowski votes. One thing he might discover in the attempt: He doesn’t have the first idea of the values of this state he has visited only during refueling stops on Air Force One — the closeness to the land, to blood, to the sound ice shards make on a pane of glass at 40 below. All this might play as curiosity or nostalgia in the Lower 48. But it’s real up here.
We don’t need more greatness in Alaska — just someone who understands what we already have, and is courageous enough to defend it against those who do not.