McConnell creates new rift inside GOP, earning censure from Alaska state party

Senate leader spends millions attacking GOP nominee Tshibaka to help old friend, Trump foe Murkowski.

Updated: October 26, 2022 - 1:12am

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who caused a stir this summer by questioning the quality of his party's candidates, has created a new rift inside the GOP by spending millions to defeat Alaska GOP Senate nominee Kelly Tshibaka.

McConnell's leadership PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, has been running attack ads against Tshibaka in an effort to boost moderate incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The Alaska Republican Party responded Monday by voting to censure McConnell for spreading "divisive and misleading statements" about Tshibaka, who was endorsed both by the state party and former President Donald Trump.

The censure resolution, which passed 49-8, also declared McConnell's financial support for Murkowski to be "in direct contradiction" to the party's rules.

"Much of the financial support from the Senate Leadership Fund has been used for malicious political attack ads targeted at our endorsed candidate, Kelly Tshibaka, that are gross distortions of fact," the resolution reads. "We request the Senate Leadership Fund immediately stop the attack ads against Kelly Tshibaka and discontinue the support of all other opposing candidates."

The state party previously censured Murkowski last year for voting to convict Trump in his impeachment trial for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump was acquitted.

Murkowski is one of the more moderate Republican senators, siding with Democrats in voting to back Obamacare and opposing Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

Tshibaka said McConnell's intervention in the Alaska race was wasting valuable resources that could go to defeat Democrats in other states. 

"The millions of dollars Mitch McConnell is spending on lies about me could be put to better use in other states where a Republican has a chance to beat a Democrat," she said. "And the Alaska Republican Party has just told him to butt out of our state."

McConnell raised the ire of many other Republicans nationally, including Trump, when over the summer he made comments suggesting the Republicans might not win the Senate because of the quality of their candidates

"I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate," he said at the time. "Senate races are just different. They're statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome." He later was forced to reverse course and acknowledge Republicans still had a good chance to win the chamber.