Trump looms as Liz Cheney and Lisa Murkowski face tough primaries: The Note

Both lawmakers have been censured by fellow Republicans -- now voters weigh in.

August 16, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Averi Harper

Tuesday's primaries in Wyoming and Alaska are a test of the effectiveness of former President Donald Trump's political vendetta against those who have broken with him.

Both Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski have been censured by fellow Republicans for voting against Trump during his second impeachment, after Jan. 6. Now voters in both states will determine their political fate.

Cheney is expected to lose her primary to Trump's pick, attorney Harriet Hageman, who like him espouses lies about the 2020 election. A primary loss would complicate Cheney's pledge to do everything she "can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office."

Murkowski is the only Republican senator up for reelection of the seven who voted to convict Trump. Her saving grace may be Alaska's new voting system, in which all candidates regardless of party will appear on the same primary ballot and the top four will advance to November's general election.

Murkowski's staunchest competition is former state official Kelly Tshibaka, another 2020 election denier backed by Trump. Murkowski, who is expected to survive this primary threat, has defied tough odds in a prior election. In 2010, she ran a successful write-in effort after losing the GOP nomination.

The outcome of these primary races will be the latest signifier of the GOP's willingness or unwillingness to include voices that don't blindly pledge allegiance to the former commander-in-chief.

Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the America First Policy Institute Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2022.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The familiar names competing in Alaska's special general election on Tuesday are faced with a relatively unfamiliar voting process given that, for the first time, voters will cast ballots using a ranked-choice system to elect the state's only U.S. House member.

The seat opened for the first time in nearly 50 years due to the death in March of Republican Rep. Don Young. Former governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, businessman and former GOP aide Nick Begich III and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola are all vying to fill Young's remaining congressional term.

As reported by ABC News' Hannah Demissie, the new method of voting administration was approved in 2020 as a ballot initiative, which also created a nonpartisan primary that sends the top four vote-getters to the general election.

Some advocates say the use of ranked-choice voting could result in less polarizing elections, but the process could also be more time consuming given how many potential rounds of ballot counting could happen for a candidate to receive a majority of first-choice votes.

If a candidate in the general election wins more than 50% of first-choice votes, they win the race outright and if not, the candidate with the least number of first-place votes is eliminated and that candidate's voters instead have their ballots redistributed to their second choice. The process goes on until a candidate tops 50%.

The state plans to only report first-choice results until the deadline for absentee ballots passes, which could mean the final outcome of the contest will not be known on election night.

Reading the tea leaves of the race is also complicated by a lack of a clear front-runner, although Palin heads into the contest with Trump's endorsement. It remains to be seen how the former governor handles potential delays with results after alleging the ranked-choice voting system "results in voter suppression" at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin makes a joke about the size of the state of Texas compared to Alaska during her appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 4, 2022.
Lm Otero/AP, FILE

The TIP with Will McDuffie

Florida Democratic leaders are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to cancel a rally he's scheduled to hold Friday in Pittsburgh with Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania under fire for his ties to a controversial social media site.

"DeSantis is vainly promoting his own political aspirations across the country – and perhaps most alarmingly, has chosen to campaign with Doug Mastriano … who has a history of associating with antisemitic extremists," the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus said in a statement Monday. "If DeSantis had any decency left, he would cancel his rally with Mastriano out of respect for the people of Florida."

According to campaign filings, Mastriano paid $5,000 in "consulting" fees -- reportedly for advertising -- to the platform Gab, which has become notorious in recent years for the extreme views of some of its users. For example, a man accused of killing 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 had made antisemitic comments on Gab. (The company said in 2017 that it "unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence.")

Mastriano said last month that "I reject anti-Semitism in any form" and the focus on Gab was a "smear" and a deflection by Democrats.

Friday's rally comes less than a month after a small group of people flew Nazi flags outside an event in Tampa at which DeSantis spoke. Turning Point USA, the organizer of the Tampa rally, condemned the display. A group started by the same founder, Charlie Kirk, is hosting this week's Pittsburgh event.

DeSantis' team did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. The rally in Pittsburgh will be the third of four "Unite and Win" events the Florida governor is headlining. The first two were last weekend in New Mexico and Arizona. Another is scheduled this week in Ohio.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference on Aug. 3, 2022 in Rockledge, Fla.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

2.2. That's the number of percentage points by which Rep. Ilhan Omar won her renomination bid against former Minneapolis City Council and school board member Don Samuels, and as FiveThirtyEight's Alex Samuels writes, that makes Omar an outlier among other "squad" members who have faced a primary challenger this year. For instance, fellow progressive Reps. Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib handily beat their challengers by more than 40 points each. Read more from Alex about why Omar is maybe especially disliked by Democrats.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning with a preview of the Wyoming primary as Rep. Liz Cheney fights for her seat. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports from the state. Then, ABC's John Santucci breaks down the latest on Georgia's election interference investigation. And ABC's Sony Salzman discusses the U.K.'s approval of a bivalent COVID booster.


  • President Joe Biden will sign the major new tax, climate and health care bill known as the "Inflation Reduction Act" at the White House. As previously announced, the White House has said Biden "will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on Sept. 6.
  • Primaries are being held in Alaska and Wyoming: Polls open in Alaska by noon ET and in Wyoming at 9 a.m. ET.
  • Polls close in Alaska by 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday and close in Wyoming at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

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