In an eerily similar situation to 2010, incumbent Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the leaders of the GOP’s moderate wing, will once again be facing a serious challenge from her right flank. This time, Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka is attempting to unseat her, and if this was the old system with two-party primaries, she would be a near-guarantee to succeed.
The wrinkle in this, however, comes with Alaska’s new top-four ranked-choice voting system. As a refresher, the top four candidates in this jungle primary will advance to the general election, which will be held via ranked-choice voting in which voters will rank their top choices from first to fourth. If no candidate gets an outright majority, the fourth-place finisher will be eliminated, and their supporters’ votes will be reallocated among the top three. If this doesn’t net an outright majority for any candidate, then the third place candidate is eliminated and their votes reallocated, after which the winner is selected.
Murkowski and Tshibaka will both almost certainly advance to November, and Murkowski will very likely net fewer first-place votes than Tshibaka at first. However, she will likely get more support than both the Democratic candidate who advances and the independent candidate who does, and in a case like this, she will very likely consolidate the Democratic vote to her side as their second choice. This gives her an avenue with which to stay in office, and hypothetical polling from Cygnal shows an extremely tight race, with Murkowski up by four in the final round against Tshibaka after all reallocation has taken place. We rate this race as a TOSSUP right now between Murkowski and Tshibaka, and we would give the edge to Murkowski if we were forced to pick. However, despite the uncertainty that dominates this matchup, one thing is clear: this seat is almost guaranteed to be held by a Republican come January, barring a Murkowski party change — and for that reason, our rating is SAFE REPUBLICAN.
In Hawaii, incumbent Democratic Governor David Ige was term-limited this year. The winner in the primary to replace him was Josh Green, the state’s Lieutenant Governor. He took over 60% of the vote against a series of opposition candidates, including Vicky Cayetano and U.S. Representative Kai Kahele. Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a two-time gubernatorial nominee, is the GOP’s standard-bearer. The November general election is rated SAFE DEMOCRATIC.
The 2nd Congressional district, currently held by Kahele, opened up when he made a last-minute decision to run for Governor. Former state senator Jill Tokuda won the Democratic primary with 50% of the vote, defeating state representative Patrick Branco. Like its counterpart 1st district, this seat is a guaranteed addition to the SAFE DEMOCRATIC column.
Alaska’s At-Large district opened up earlier this year after long-time Congressman Don Young died. His departure necessitated the first congressional special election held under the Last Frontier’s new ranked-choice voting system. In the June primary, the top four candidates were former Governor Sarah Palin, Nick Begich, Al Gross, and ex-state representative Mary Peltola. Gross, an independent, later dropped out.
Tonight, Alaskans will choose between the three remaining candidates pursuant to their state’s new system. Should no single hopeful take an outright majority, the contender receiving the fewest votes will be eliminated ahead of a second round. If Palin were to be in this situation, her voters’ votes would be reallocated to either Begich or Peltola based on 2nd choice rankings.
Judging by available polling and state fundamentals, Peltola will probably unite enough Democrats to take a plurality of the votes cast before reallocation. The real contest, then, is likely to be the battle for 2nd place that is being fought between Palin and Begich. Because public data have been scarce, there is little way to determine which of the two has the upper hand. Split Ticket feels comfortable predicting a first place finish for Peltola, but considers the positioning for 2nd and 3rd place to be a TOSSUP.
Despite Alaska’s partisan lean, the special election is currently rated LIKELY REPUBLICAN because Palin’s unfavorability ratings suggest that she would beat Peltola by a smaller post-reallocation margin than would Begich. While this classification is taken out of an abundance of caution, it should not be considered an expectation of anything close to a Democratic victory.
Alaskans will also be voting in a top-four primary to determine the general election line-up for the November regular in the state’s lone district. Unsurprisingly, the candidate base is nearly identical to that of the special. Peltola, Palin, Begich, and a new fourth contender are favored to advance to the final round decided by RCV. For now, this race will stay at SAFE REPUBLICAN.
Despite being a Republican, Nick Begich’s family name has traditionally been associated with Democrats. His grandfather, also named Nick, preceded Congressman Young as Alaska’s representative in the House. He, along with Majority Leader Hale Boggs, infamously disappeared in a 1972 Bush plane accident during his reelection campaign. Begich was returned posthumously that fall against Young, but the youthful Republican would go on to win the 1973 special election.
Two of Nick Begich III’s uncles, Mark and Tom, are also prominent Democratic politicians in the state. Mark defeated Alaska legend Ted Stevens in a bitterly-contested 2008 Senate race before losing himself in 2014. Tom is currently Minority Leader of the state Senate.
The most-watched race in Wyoming, and arguably in Washington D.C., this year is the Republican House primary between Congresswoman Liz Cheney and attorney Harriet Hageman. Despite being an ardent social conservative in the brand of her father, a former Vice President, the younger Cheney has drawn the ire of the Trump-wing of the GOP following her impeachment vote and subsequent service as Vice-Chairwoman of the January 6th Committee.
Just a few short years ago, Cheney was a rising star in Washington. That ended after she was removed as GOP House Conference Chair last year. Since then, none of her Republican colleagues have endorsed her reelection bid. A notable opponent is Kevin McCarthy, the favorite to become Speaker of the House next year. All of these developments prove that Trump’s endorsement has been the most influential arbiter of Cheney’s fate.
Fundamentals and recent primary losses for pro-impeachment Republicans aside, all available polling indicates that Hageman is a strong favorite. The rolling average actually shows Cheney down by double-digits, currently placing her below the 30% threshold. At this point, the question facing pundits is not one of whether or not Cheney will lose, but rather by how much. While the final margin cannot be guessed for sure, Split Ticket feels confident in issuing a SAFE HAGEMAN rating.
My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying political science and international studies at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, aviation, and fitness.
Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m a software engineer and a computer scientist (UC Berkeley class of 2019 BA, class of 2020 MS) who has an interest in machine learning, politics, and electoral data. I’m a partner at Split Ticket, handle our Senate races, and make many kinds of electoral models.