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Trump's hold on GOP to be tested Tuesday in Wyoming, Alaska primaries

Perhaps no other Republican in the United States has been a bigger symbol of the party’s anti-Trump legion than Rep. Liz Cheney — the 56-year-old daughter of former GOP Vice President Dick Cheney who faces a primary challenge on Tuesday. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 16 (UPI) — Two states hold primary elections on Tuesday, and both will test former President Donald Trump‘s grip on the Republican Party as two moderates who voted to hold him accountable for inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack are on the ballot.

Alaska and Wyoming will stage the primary contests and are two of the last nine in the nation to do so. After Tuesday, there will be just six states left to hold primaries before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Tuesday’s primaries will include two incumbent women who are facing challenges from candidates who have pledged loyalty to Trump, who is presently facing a serious criminal investigation related to his removing classified documents from the White House and potential violation of the Espionage Act.

One race will also include a former vice presidential candidate who’s vying for a House seat in a special election.

Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has a long record as a moderate Republican that includes supporting abortion rights, voting to support the Affordable Care Act and voting with President Joe Biden 69% of the time since he has been in office — including a vote to confirm new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Murkowski was one of just seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, although the effort ultimately fell just three votes short.

Murkowski is expected to survive Tuesday’s primary challenge regardless of where voters fall on her criticism of Trump due to the state’s newly adopted primary system, which places all candidates for office on the same primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

The top four candidates will advance to the Nov. 8 general election in a new ranked choice voting process — but Tuesday’s voting should indicate whether Murkowski has the support to hold onto the seat in November.

“There’s no great anticipation about whether or not Lisa Murkowski is going to advance. So, it does have a different feel,” Murkowski told The Washington Post.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., at the U.S. Capitol in Washington during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on February 10, 2021. Murkowski ultimately voted to convict Trump. File Photo by Greg Nash/UPI/Pool

Murkowski’s main primary competition is expected to come from Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former department commissioner in Alaska’s state government.

Democrat Pat Chesbro, a retired principal and schools superintendent who has received the party’s endorsement, is also expected to be a front-runner to advance.

Tuesday will also feature a special election in Alaska to fill the House seat left open by the death of GOP Rep. Don Young earlier this year.

The race is expected to be a tight one among three candidates — Republican businessman Nick Begich III, Democratic former state Rep. Mary Peltola and former GOP vice presidential candidate and former Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin led the pack in June’s primary winning 27% of the vote, followed by Begich with 19% and independent Al Gross with 13%. Gross, however, dropped out and advanced Peltola, who won 10%, as the only non-Republican on the ballot. With Gross out of the race, Peltola is hoping to pick up the independent’s supporters, which could give her a shot in the race.

All three finalists in the special election are also on the ballot as candidates in the House primary where they are also expected to advance to November’s general election.

Republican Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy also faces a serious challenge after surviving a recall campaign that was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic in the state where no incumbent governor has won re-election since 1998.

Dunleavy, who has been endorsed by Trump, faces challenges from fellow Republicans in state Rep. Christopher Kurka and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce. Independent former Gov. Bill Walker and Democratic former state Rep. Les Gara are also vying for the post.

Wyoming

Tuesday’s primary races in Wyoming include perhaps the most high-profile candidate of the primary season — three-time incumbent Republican Rep. Liz Cheney.

Perhaps no other Republican in the United States has been a bigger symbol of the party’s anti-Trump legion than Cheney — the 56-year-old daughter of former GOP Vice President Dick Cheney, who served for two terms under President George W. Bush.

Cheney was one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack and is one of only two Republicans on the House’s Jan. 6 committee. As a member of the committee, she has repeatedly said that all members of Congress must do whatever is necessary to make sure Trump is never elected again.

Naturally, Cheney’s opposition has made her a prime target for Trump — and it appears that Wyoming residents may ultimately stand with Trump, not Cheney. Recent polling indicates that Cheney is likely to lose Tuesday’s primary.

A flag and political poster make clear one Wyoming resident’s feelings about Rep. Liz Cheney at a trailer park in Green Rive, Wyo., on July 11. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

Cheney also faced censures from both the Wyoming GOP and the national Republican Party over her vote to impeach Trump.

First elected to the House in 2016, Cheney is locked in a close battle with GOP attorney Harriet Hageman after three other candidates dropped out of the race shortly after Trump endorsed her a year ago.

Hageman, who placed third in a GOP primary for governor in 2018, previously supported Cheney and tried to block the Republican Party from nominating Trump in 2016.

However, she has since done an about face and is now in lockstep with the former president. Hageman has said that she felt Cheney “betrayed Wyoming” with her impeachment vote and has entirely supported Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard is also on the ballot but has seen his support decline after it came to light that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 18. The girl later died by suicide.

The Democrats vying for an unlikely House win in November include Lynette GreyBull, Steven Helling and Meghan Jensen.

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