Anchorage State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson filed her paperwork on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 at the Division of Elections offices in Juneau, to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Lisa Murkowski. Gray-Jackson, a Democrat, is the first from her party to enter the race and the first Black woman to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Alaska. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Anchorage State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson filed her paperwork on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 at the Division of Elections offices in Juneau, to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Lisa Murkowski. Gray-Jackson, a Democrat, is the first from her party to enter the race and the first Black woman to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Alaska. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Democratic state senator files to unseat Murkowski

Anchorage Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson is first Black woman to seek seat

State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, filed Thursday to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

“Alaskans have a choice now,” Gray-Jackson said as she finished her paperwork which she filed at the Divison of Elections offices in Juneau. Holding back tears as she spoke to reporters following her filing, Gray-Jackson said public service was her passion and she looked forward to reaching out to Alaskans.

“Alaskans deserve better now they have a choice, they have a choice to vote for me, someone who understands, truly understands what Alaskans need,” Gray-Jackson said.

The first-term state senator joins an already crowded field for the U.S. Senate seat but is the first Democrat to file for the office. In addition to incumbent Murkowski, Gray-Jackson heads into a race against former Administration Commissioner Kelley Tshibaka, a Republican; Dave Darden, undeclared; Dustin Darden, Alaska Independence Party; Sidney Hill, nonpartisan; Jeremy Keller, nonpartisan; Huhnkie Lee, undeclared; Samuel Little, Republican; John Schiess, Republican; Karl Speights, Republican; Joe Stephens, Alaska Independence Party, and Sean Thorne, Libertarian.

State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson filed Thursday paperwork to run for U.S. Senate. Gray-Jackson enters a field that includes incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican; and former Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican; among others. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson filed Thursday paperwork to run for U.S. Senate. Gray-Jackson enters a field that includes incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican; and former Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican; among others. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

If elected, Gray-Jackson would be the first Black woman to hold a U.S. Senate seat from Alaska.

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Murkowski already has a healthy lead in fundraising, with more than $4.2 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, 2021, according to the Federal Election Commission. Tshibaka too, has a significant war chest with more than $600,000 and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

But this will be the first election under Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, which Gray-Jackson said will give voters the opportunity to vote their conscience.

The state senator criticized Murkowski for not voting for the recent voting rights legislation that came before Congress and for approving non-pro choice Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’m 100% pro-choice,” Gray-Jackson said.

Health care was another area Gray-Jackson said was important to her, noting that her son and many other Alaskans are unable to afford coverage. Public safety and raising wages for workers were other areas the state senator said were important to her.

Elected to the Alaska State Senate in 2018, Gray-Jackson previous served on the Anchorage Assembly, a body she worked for in several roles since 1988, according to her legislative biography, eventually becoming director of the Budget and Legislative Services Office.

Gray-Jackson is the first Black woman to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Alaska, and noted to reporters she was the first minority to serve as chairperson of the Anchorage Assembly.

“I was the first minority to be before the chair when I served on the Anchorage Assembly,” Gray-Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to working hard and reaching out to Alaskans so that I can get elected to the U.S. Senate and when I’m elected to the US Senate I’ll make history once again.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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