Former President Donald Trump’s conditional endorsement of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is pitting top Republicans against each other and complicating GOP efforts in key 2022 contests.

Late Wednesday, Trump backed Dunleavy’s reelection, declaring the governor a “strong and consistent conservative.” But the former president said his “complete and total endorsement” is “null and void” if Dunleavy endorses Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The move threatens to make adversaries of Alaska’s senior elected Republicans and force party organizations to work at cross purposes, developments that risk splintering the party in a red state and frustrating its drive to recapture the Senate.

"The Alaska GOP is already fractured in a big way," a Republican operative in the state told the Washington Examiner. "Trump's conditional endorsement of Dunleavy was just another straw."

Trump’s bid to influence Republican politics in Alaska was already uncomfortable for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The NRSC backs Murkowski, putting the Senate GOP campaign arm opposite Trump in this crucial race, a position it prefers to avoid. Senate Republicans need to win one seat to flip the chamber and generally see Murkowski as their best opportunity to hold Alaska given the dynamics of the state in general elections.

Now, the Republican Governors Association, backing Dunleavy and also interested in minimizing friction with the former president, is faced with the possibility of ending up in the same awkward place in Alaska as the NRSC. Both groups could find themselves rowing in opposite directions next fall — counterproductive to both their efforts, though not necessarily fatal, according to Republican insiders monitoring the gubernatorial and Senate contests in the state.


Trump’s opposition to Murkowski is not news.

The former president is on a mission to oust the senator because she voted to convict him on impeachment charges of fomenting the Jan. 6 ransacking of the U.S. Capitol. Months ago, he backed Kelly Tshibaka, the Republican challenging Murkowski, who the state GOP endorsed. But in tying his support for Dunleavy to neutrality in the Senate race, Trump raised the stakes of his intervention in Alaska — and the cost of his endorsement.

“Alaska needs Mike Dunleavy as governor now more than ever,” Trump said in a statement, citing the Republican chief executive’s position fidelity to the Constitution and opposition to President Joe Biden. “But, this endorsement is subject to his non-endorsement of Senator Lisa Murkowski.”

This strings-attached seal-of-approval is an escalation for Trump in his campaign to force Republican officials and GOP groups to bend to his will and enforce his vendettas. Such animus usually results from the former president’s conclusion that those in his crosshairs have been insufficiently loyal personally versus crossing him on policy matters. Dunleavy, otherwise in good standing with the Republican base in Alaska, could get caught in the middle.

The state now has an all-party primary system and ranked-choice voting. If Murkowski outlasts Tshibaka as the only Republican left standing in the general election, Dunleavy might have to choose between endorsing the incumbent senator joining him at the top of the ticket over a Democrat or Trump — unless the former president drops his opposition to Murkowski. The Alaska Republican Party, which exists to support the GOP ticket, could find itself in a similar dilemma.

However, Alaska Republicans say they expect Murkowski and Tshibaka to advance from the top-four, all-party primary to the ranked-choice general election. Ranked-choice voting would give Murkowski the advantage in the general election, some GOP insiders say. But they say Tshibaka might enter that phase of the contest with more votes than Murkowski in the primary, easing the way for Dunleavy to back his party’s endorsed candidate and avert conflict with Trump.

Grassroots conservatives in Alaska adore Trump. The state GOP central committee, dominated by this faction of the party, censured Murkowski for her vote to convict Trump on a single article of impeachment at trial in the Senate, and it later endorsed Tshibaka. Although favored for reelection, the governor cannot completely disregard the GOP base. His opponents include Republicans challenging him from the Right, including state legislator Christopher Kurka, with others possibly on deck.

Dunleavy always intended to avoid picking sides between Murkowski and Tshibaka, GOP insiders in Alaska say — a strategy he might maintain if Murkowski outvotes her Republican competition in the all-party primary. But after Trump issued his conditional endorsement, it might appear the governor is remaining neutral under pressure. Dunleavy is attempting to ignore the controversy. In a written statement, the governor thanked Trump for his support but did not mention the unusual preconditions.


“I want to thank President Trump for his endorsement,” Dunleavy said, according to the Anchorage Daily News. “We had a very good working relationship on the issues that are important to Alaska, in particular resource development. No president has done more for Alaska than President Trump and I appreciate his support.”

A Republican insider in Alaska called Trump’s Dunleavy endorsement “ridiculous” and said the governor could have done without the distraction. But this individual predicted it would fail to affect his prospects.

“It doesn’t help him, but I don’t think in the long run it really hurts him much at all,” the Republican said.