ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Just over two years ago, then-President Donald Trump pledged to come to Alaska to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as she ran for reelection. Now, Trump is set to fulfill his pledge in a rally set to be held next Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.
Murkowski’s campaign declined to comment about the rally, but Kelly Tshibaka, Murkowski’s chief Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, was happy to talk about it after receiving the former president’s prized endorsement. She said that she’s “very honored to have President Trump’s support.”
“I think we’re going to see a huge turnout for Alaskans and the support that he gave us,” Tshibaka said.
In February, Tshibaka paid over $14,477 to book Mar-a-Lago in Florida for a campaign fundraiser hosted by Trump, according to campaign disclosure documents she filed with the Federal Election Commission. This time around, it’s the Trump’s Save America Super PAC that appears set to pick up the tab.
Austin Osborne, a spokesperson for the University of Alaska Anchorage, said the Super PAC paid $53,081 to rent the Alaska Airlines Center for the rally. Discussions about the event began several weeks ago, Osborne said, and involved the U.S. Secret Service planning all aspects of security.
“The university reviews all facilities-use requests objectively through the lens of freedom of speech and other legal obligations,” he added in a prepared statement. “Freedom of speech is an important aspect of UAA’s mission. As a publicly funded university, it is UAA’s legal obligation to lease facilities and event spaces on an equal basis to parties irrespective of viewpoint or affiliation.”
Trump has given Gov. Mike Dunleavy his conditional endorsement, which is dependent on Dunleavy not endorsing Murkowski. In late December, a spokesperson for the Dunleavy campaign said that he would not be getting involved in other races.
Democratic candidate for governor, Les Gara, a former state legislator, is planning to attend a very different rally on Saturday afternoon at the Delaney Park Strip. Planned Parenthood, which endorsed Gara on Wednesday, is holding a protest against Roe vs. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Three of the five justices who overturned the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationally were appointed by Trump.
“Thousands of women are going to be marching to protect their rights to choose, and I’m going to be with women to protect choice,” Gara said.
Mary Peltola, a Democratic candidate for Alaska’s vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after Congressman Don Young died in March, is also planning on attending the Anchorage Planned Parenthood rally. Similar pro-choice events are set to be held next Saturday in Fairbanks, Juneau and Homer.
Executive Director of Alaska Democratic Party Lindsay Kavanaugh said by phone that it is “disappointing” that Trump is coming to Alaska, particularly after revelations during the Jan. 6 congressional hearings, which she argued points to criminality.
Kim Jones, Peltola’s campaign manager, was also dismissive about Trump traveling to Alaska for the planned rally, saying that, “Alaskans don’t need people from the Lower 48 telling them how to vote.”
Republican businessman Nick Begich III finished second in the special congressional primary election, and he was similarly dismissive of the event, saying he isn’t planning on attending. He called the rally “pretty exciting political entertainment” and asked whether one of his Republican opponents, former Gov. Sarah Palin, would be dancing on stage while wearing a mask, referencing her appearance on “The Masked Singer.”
“We’ve got so many challenges as a nation that we can’t dance our way out of,” Begich said.
Palin, who finished first in the special primary election, received Trump’s endorsement in April, shortly after she filed to run to replace Young. Her campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment about the rally on Thursday, but released a prepared statement, saying she was honored to receive Trump’s support.
“Alaska has so much to contribute to this great nation, and President Trump has always recognized that,” Palin said.
Republican Tara Sweeney, who finished fifth in the special primary and won’t appear on the special general election ballot, is still in the running for the next full two-year term to fill Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House.
Through a statement, Sweeney said about Trump’s visit, “Welcome to Alaska. I hope you get out beyond Anchorage to see why Alaska is the greatest state in the nation,” before adding, “Hello to Ivanka.”
There have been few details that have been made public about Trump’s Anchorage rally. According to a press release from his Super PAC, doors will open at the Alaska Airlines Center at 6 a.m. next Saturday with “entertainment” beginning at 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., “pre-program speakers” are set to deliver remarks before the former president is scheduled to deliver his speech at 4 p.m.
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