She has received the endorsement of the Alaska Republican Party. She is the first candidate running against an incumbent Republican to receive the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Meet Kelly Tshibaka, the Wasilla, Alaska native seeking to unseat U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in 2022.
Human Events News had a chance to sit down and talk with Kelly to find out who she is and what makes her run.
The first thing that becomes clear when you talk to Kelly Tshibaka about her run for the U.S. Senate is her deep and abiding love for the State of Alaska. “The oil and gas industry in this state gave my parents the chance they needed to fight their way into the middle class. Now, I’m tired of seeing the people I love in this state walking around in despair because they are being bullied by the D.C. liberal elites who Lisa Murkowski likes palling around with.”
Tshibaka says her parents moved to Alaska in the 1970’s. In imagery that calls to mind to Alaska Gold Rush near the entry into the 20th century, the couple originally lived outdoors without an actual residence address. “They said they lived in a tent, but when you look at pictures its really just a tarp,” Tshibaka says with a hint of pride. Her father, a Vietnam Veteran, eventually got a job with Anchorage Telephone Utility and her mother found work inside the energy industry.
By the time Kelly came along in the latter part of that decade, she says her parents were in a place to provide her with a fairly “normal” childhood. “I have great memories of ice fishing with my dad and playing ice hockey,” she says. “We also used to get around in a small aircraft which is common here. Because of the snow, cars can’t navigate the roads much of the year.”
She attended college at Texas A&M and interned for then Alaskan U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. It is Stevens she credits with giving her the idea and encouragement to apply to Harvard Law School. “I didn’t think it was possible. I applied to a number of schools and Harvard was almost an afterthought. But I got in. It is sort of a ‘legally blonde’ story (a reference to a 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon).” It was at Harvard that she met her current husband, Niki. Post law school, the young couple moved to the D.C. area where Kelly took a position with the Inspector General’s Office inside the Justice Department.
“When I talk to people in Alaska about my time with the IG’s office in the DOJ I tell them that it was our job to answer the question of who’s putting justice in the Department of Justice? Said differently, inside the swamp there are those whose job it is to be anti-swamp.” Tshibaka’s stint inside the DOJ was a successful one by her measure and even included the investigation of a case that made its way to the Supreme Court. “My mother had become and auditor in her company, so I guess that approach came naturally to me. I always kept in mind the motto of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
From DOJ the now-aspiring Senator went on to serve in stints in both National Intelligence and with the FTC, always in a watchdog role. Eventually, she heard the calls of home and she and her husband made the move back to Alaska. There she found herself working inside the Department of Administration under Governor Michael Dunleavy where she believes she made a “positive impact.”
But that positive impact wasn’t enough. “I just kept watching things get worse,” she says. “Then earlier this year as I watched Joe Biden, with the help of Lisa Murkowski, effectively shut down the Alaska oil and gas industry I decided I had seen enough. Somebody had to be a champion for the people of Alaska and I felt that champion needed to be me.”
When it comes to Murkowski, Tshibaka does not pull punches. “Lisa Murkowski is complicit with the Biden administration in harming Alaskans and all Americans with her positions on green energy. She allowed the confirmation of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior despite her well-known anti oil and gas positions. She also supported the nomination of Vanita Gupta for U.S. Associate Attorney General despite her well know anti law enforcement views. Murkowski’s votes have been critical in key areas that have hurt the people of my state.” In employing a hockey metaphor, Tshibaka adds, “I thought, what if we could just switch out that goalie…?”
From a position standpoint, Tshibaka comes across as a strong supporter of the kind of conservatism that has emerged from the Trump era, a kind she labels as the “third wave” of conservatism. She can extemporaneously rattle off a list of the kinds of positions her campaign supports ranging from fair trade policies to law and order, to less bureaucracy, to school choice, just to name a few. Each are reminiscent of the kinds of policies that were promoted, albeit with limited success due to Congress, under President Trump.
One thing this reporter found of note was when Tshibaka ran through her list of positions she started by indicating her campaign’s support of “capitalism.” This is a word from which many conservatives run in today’s political climate due to its high “negatives” within focus groups. Tshibaka is undeterred. She is equally unequivocal when it comes to immigration. “We are in favor of a merit-based system and we need strong security at the border. If we don’t have a border, we don’t have a nation. We are going through a national identity crisis right now trying to decide if we really are the nation our Founding Fathers tried to establish. Illegal immigration adds to that crisis.”
She continues by saying, “Some of our leaders have taken a pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America but then seem to look to the document only for a sort of guidance. Others go even further and seem to be actively working against it. We have become the Divided States of America.”
Kelly and her husband are also pastors of a local group of Christian churches. With her faith as a cornerstone of her life and the life of her family (five children, ages seven to seventeen), she openly worries about the hostility directed toward the Christian community today by government and activists. “The only faith-based group it is acceptable to attack today are Christians. We are constantly being criticized for how we pray and how we practice our faith. It would be unacceptable for these kinds of public attacks to take place against any other religion.”
Asked what she would do for the first two years of her term, which would be spent under a Biden presidency, if elected in 2022 she says, “The first thing I would do is to try to stop whatever we could in terms of the Democrats radical initiatives. Lisa Murkowski could have tried to do this but instead she has supported Biden to this point. I can also bring my skillset from my time spent working within the Washington bureaucracy to help streamline and standardize bureaucratic procedures. This is not a partisan issue and does not require legislation.”
Kelly Tshibaka is a serious candidate and an engaging person. This woman who likes to spend her spare time singing music from Broadway shows with her children, partaking in outdoor activities, or eating ice cream while playing competitive board games is certain to give Murkowski a run for her money. Regarding money, Tshibaka reports they have already raised more money to this point than has any past party challenger to the incumbent. To coopt an energy industry metaphor, this race could well be the canary in the Republican establishment political mine as the country looks to see just how far the movement started under Donald Trump can be carried.
You can learn more about Kelly Tshibaka’s candidacy at www.KellyforAK.com.