Alaska Senate: Al Gross, 2020 Nominee, Considering Another Run

by Jacob Rubashkin April 12, 2021 · 12:21 PM EDT

Al Gross, the independent who ran for US Senate in Alaska in 2020 with backing from state and national Democrats and broke fundraising records but lost to incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, is considering another run for the Senate in 2022.

Gross told Inside Elections that he is “certainly considering” running for the state’s other Senate seat, currently held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican. 

Murkowski already faces one announced challenger, former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, also a Republican. Murkowski is a frequent critic of former President Donald Trump and broke with him on high-profile issues over the last four years, including by voting to conivct the former president at February’s impeachment trial. Trump has vowed to help defeat her in 2022, and several of his former senior aides are advising Tshibaka, who is running an expressly pro-Trump campaign.

As a first-time candidate in 2020, Gross raised $19.5 million, the largest haul of any Senate candidate in Alaska in history; the orthopedic surgeon lost to Sullivan by 13 points, 54-41 percent, in a closely-watched contest that saw significant outside spending by both parties.

Last November, Alaska voters approved a new election system that will be in place for the 2022 Senate race. Under the new rules, all candidates from all parties will appear together on the same primary ballot. The top four vote-getters will advance to the general election, which will be decided by instant runoff ranked choice voting.

Gross, who ran in 2020 as an independent but with the nomination of the Alaska Democratic Party, told Inside Elections that he hopes the new system “shakes things up” in Alaska.

A March 29 poll conducted by Cygnal for the Tshibaka campaign of the all-party primary found Gross garnering 18 percent of likely voters. Tshibaka took 34 percent and Murkowski took 19 percent. John Howe, who was the Alaska Independence Party nominee in the 2020 race and took 5 percent, was included and received 6 percent. 

The polling memo did not include ranked choice results. Other surveys have indicated that Murkowksi’s base of support is primarily unaffiliated voters and Democrats rather than Republicans, meaning she could benefit from the reallocation of votes in the instant runoff system. The senior senator has won complex elections before, including in 2016 against three major opponents and in 2010 as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary.

Inside Elections currently rates the race as Solid Republican.