Thousands of Alaskans flocked to Anchorage on Saturday, where former U.S. President Donald Trump doubled down on his endorsements in Alaska’s two congressional races. From the Alaska Airlines Center, Trump rounded out a who’s-who lineup of Alaska conservatives that included congressional hopefuls Kelly Tshibaka and Sarah Palin, as well as Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and My Pillow CEO and political activist Mike Lindell.
At the packed 5,000-seat arena, the former president spoke for over an hour to a sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats and campaign signs. Between bringing up to the stage Palin and Tshibaka, Trump repeated debunked claims about 2020 election fraud, lamented the assassination of Shinzo Abe and said the United States is “a nation in decline” under the leadership of President Joe Biden.
“We’re led by fools,” Trump said.
In a blitz of go-to conservative talking points, Trump voiced his skepticism about ranked choice voting, which Alaska will roll out for the first time in August, criticized transgender women competing in women’s sporting events, called for public schools to offer more “patriotic education” and celebrated the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump’s visit came roughly a month before Alaska’s special general election — to fill the state’s U.S. House seat — and regular primary election. The two will be held concurrently on Aug. 16. The special general election will be the first time Alaska voters use a ranked choice voting ballot, through which they will be able to vote for more than one candidate.
Kelly Tshibaka, who is vying to unseat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, interspersed sweeping condemnations of the incumbent senator with refrains of “It’s time for a change” during her address to the crowd. Among other things, Tshibaka criticized Murkowski’s vote to confirm the current U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who she said is stifling resource development in Alaska, as well as her vote to confirm Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Tshibaka urged Alaska voters to rank her “No. 1” on the general ballot this fall and promised to block what she called Biden’s “America-obliterating” agenda. She emphasized the role Alaska’s seats in the U.S. Senate play in close votes.
“This Senate seat often is the deciding vote that can affect the entire course of the nation,” Tshibaka said. “And this year, the decision about who holds this Senate seat rests in your hands.”
In promoting Tshibaka as a candidate, Trump cited her experience and said she will protect the Second Amendment, will oppose “radical left judges,” will support law enforcement and will defend Alaska workers.
“Kelly fought tirelessly for Alaska taxpayers to stop corruption, fraud and abuse,” Trump said. “As your senator, she will defend Alaska energy workers.”
Former Alaska Gov. and U.S. House hopeful Sarah Palin was also recognized by Trump at Saturday’s event. She’s running to replace the late U.S. Rep. Don Young in Congress and emerged as the clear front-runner in Alaska’s June 11 special primary election, clinching more than 27% of votes.
Palin reiterated her goal of opening Alaska to more natural resource development, including domestic oil production, leading the attendees in a chant of “Drill, baby, drill!”
“We just need to turn on the spigot,” Palin said. “We just need to drill, baby, drill!”
She emphasized the importance of the upcoming midterm elections and said it won’t be enough just to win and that the elections will be about more than just political parties.
“It’s no longer Democrat versus Republican,” Palin said. “This is about control versus freedom. It’s good versus evil.”
Speaking to his endorsement of Palin, Trump recalled with fondness her support for his own candidacy in 2016.
“She’s loyal, she loves this state,” Trump said of Palin. “She would be a true warrior for your state and the country.”
Also endorsed by Trump, but who did not attend Saturday’s rally, is Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who is one of multiple Republicans running for Alaska’s highest office. Other candidates who’ve thrown their hat in the ring to become governor include Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, Democrat Les Gara and former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski spent Saturday campaigning on the Kenai Peninsula. Trump in Anchorage called her a “total creature of the Washington swamp” and a RINO, meaning “Republican in name only.” He specifically criticized her votes against funding for the construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border, her vote to oppose the confirmation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and her vote to impeach Trump.
“She voted to impeach me!” Trump said. “And I did more for this state than any president in history.”
Trump concluded his own remarks by encouraging attendees to get out and vote — though he made clear his skepticism of ranked choice voting.
“(Make America Great Again) conservatives need to turn out in massive numbers to defeat the RINOs,” Trump said. “ … Everybody get out and vote for Sarah and Kelly.”
Hours before Trump, Palin and Tshibaka took the stage, rally attendees could be found queuing up outside the doors to the Alaska Airlines Center. Some got in line as early as Friday, while others said they stayed in Anchorage overnight to get a good spot the following day.
Mike and Kathy Medcoff, of Kenai, were among the thousands waiting outside the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday. They drove up on Friday and spent the night in Anchorage to ensure they got a good spot in line, Kathy said. As a conservative, she said it’s important to her that she shows support for conservative candidates.
“This is just too terrific,” she said.
Medcoff said that she wants to see the United States be “where it was two years ago,” when Trump was president. When asked what she wanted to hear from Trump at the rally, Medcoff said she wants encouragement. In recent years, Medcoff said she’s tried to channel her political frustrations into local action.
“I would like to be encouraged,” Medcoff said. “I would like to be told (that) we’re going to be all right.”
Lori Levi was vending T-shirts and other merchandise outside the center Saturday. Her best-selling T-shirt, she said, is one that shows Trump’s face alongside the founding fathers with “We the people” written on top. The one she gets the most compliments on, however, is one that shows two shot glasses and reads “I’ve had both my shots!”
She flew to Anchorage from Michigan for the event. She said she and the merch business follow Trump on the road — before Anchorage, they were in Illinois. She said Anchorage is the furthest they’ve traveled.
“Wherever President Trump goes, we go,” Levi said.
Back inside the arena, Trump rounded out his comments with a call to action for Alaska voters and his go-to campaign slogan.
“With the help of everyone here today … we will make America powerful again,” Trump said. “We will make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again … and we will make America great again.”