Why AP called Alaska’s Senate race for Republicans

Election night results show incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski narrowly trailing right-wing challenger Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska’s U.S. Senate election, while Democrat Mary Peltola is far ahead of her Republican rivals in the U.S. House race.

The outcome of both Alaska congressional races won’t be certain until second- and third-choice rankings are applied on Nov. 23.

With the 217,550 votes counted by Wednesday, Peltola had 47% of the vote in the election for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat. Sarah Palin was in second place with nearly 27% and Nick Begich III was third with about 24%.

Technically, Palin could still win, but only if the vast majority of Begich voters took the “rank the red” message to heart and chose the former governor as their second choice. In the special election in August, only about half of Begich voters marked Palin as a their second. Nearly 29% of Begich voters made Peltola their second choice

In the U.S. Senate race, Tshibaka had a lead of less than 2 percentage points, with just over 44% of the vote to Murkowski’s nearly 43%. Democrat Pat Chesbro was far behind but still picked up nearly 10% of the vote. That bodes well for Murkowski: A large percentage of Chesbro voters likely chose Murkowski as their second choice.

At Murkowski’s election night party in downtown Anchorage, political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, who ran independent expenditure groups supporting Murkowski, said he expected as many as 80% of Chesbro’s first-choice voters to have ranked Murkowski second.

“In the best of all worlds, (Murkowski) would be be ahead right now, but she’s not,” Lottsfeldt said. “But when you project ranked choice voting, she’s going to win. It’s pretty easy math. It would just be more fun for everyone in this room if she had a lead.”