Dermot Cole

Dermot Cole

The Rev. Kelly Tshibaka has spent her entire professional career in Washington, D.C., except for the two years she and her husband worked in the Dunleavy administration, establishing residency in Alaska for her Senate run.

She’s never had a chance to vote for or against Sen. Lisa Murkowski because Kelly hadn’t lived in Alaska as an adult until 2019.

She grew up in Alaska, winning a Miss Alaska Preteen contest at age 11 in 1991, and graduating from Steller Secondary School at 15. She earned a degree in political science in 1999 from Texas A&M and then went onto Harvard Law School, where she met her future husband, Prince Jean Christian Kanyiki (Niki) Wa Tshibaka.

Alaska was never much in the picture after that. It was all Washington, D.C. 

This “we” business about taking back “our “ Senate seat from “Washington, D.C. insider” Murkowski is a complete fraud.

Kelly and Niki are card-carrying Washington, D.C. insiders who have had a variety of government jobs and other experiences in and around the nation’s capital. 

They married in Massachusetts on Jan. 28, 2001, both second-year law students at the time. They were admitted to the Maryland bar on Dec. 19, 2002. He is now listed as “inactive/retired,” while she is listed as an “active’ Maryland lawyer.

Kelly stayed at various jobs in D.C. until Dunleavy named her administration commissioner and created a new state job for her husband.

“God keeps wanting me to serve in government,” a 2015 church profile of Kelly quoted her as saying. “He keeps giving me crazy opportunities in my career. He has told me, ‘I’ve made you a Deborah. I’ve made you a mother to a nation.’ It surprises me that, in His plan, I’m more valuable to His work here than at church. People tell me things they can’t tell their pastor about.”

“Despite her impressive job titles the past 13 years, the one she cherishes is co-pastor of Mount Vernon Foursquare Fellowship,” the church profile said.

Her vocabulary has changed now that she is running for office. 

“You’re probably a D.C. insider if you heard the nation chanting ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ and you’re not picking up the clue,” she said on Twitter this week.

“Let’s Go Brandon” is code for “Fuck Joe Biden.” It’s more than a little hypocritical for Pastor Tshibaka to give that chant her blessing.

At the time of their $80,000 state-funded move to Alaska, the Tshibakas were probably already planning that Kelly would run for Senate against Murkowski, following the Dan Sullivan model. As early as 2020 she was telling people what she intended to do.

Candidate Tshibaka likes to stress two things about her life story. First, she claims her parents were homeless in 1975 in Alaska. Second, she claims that Murkowski is not a real Alaskan, but a D.C. insider, while Kelly is a real Alaskan and not a D.C. insider.

I’ve written before that living briefly in a tent in 1975 during the pipeline boom did not make anyone “homeless,” but she keeps repeating the claim about their experiences before she was born.

This is a humble origin story created expressly to contrast with that of Murkowski.

“She’s a senator’s daughter. She spent a hell of a lot of time in Washington, D.C. I don’t think they ever struggled to pay their mortgage payment. I don’t think her parents were ever homeless,” Tshibaka said to right-wing radio host Todd Starnes last spring.

Problem is, her parents were not homeless either.

“This is not about me, this is about we. We feel forgotten. We want an Alaskan inside the Senate, not a D.C. insider who’s fighting for the D.C. interests,” Tshibaka said.

No. It is about her. It’s not about us. We don’t feel forgotten. Tshibaka is running for office to get back to her home in Washington, D.C. 

Murkowski was appointed to the Senate in 2002 by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, and she won statewide elections in 2004, 2010 and 2016. Several big developments, including the write-in win in 2010, which Tshibaka wasn’t here for, established Murkowski as a political powerhouse independent of her father. 

I often disagree with her on policy issues, but no Alaska senator has worked harder for Alaska and the nation than Murkowski. 

Tshibaka was working for the federal government in Washington from 2002 to 2019, solidifying her insider status, though she pretends otherwise. She wants Alaskans to ignore her arrival less than three years ago and her lack of involvement in Alaska affairs during the past quarter-century.

When Dan Sullivan decided to run against Mead Treadwell in 2014 after four years of life in Alaska, Treadwell famously said “I’ve got a jar of mayonnaise in my refrigerator that’s been there longer than Dan Sullivan’s been in Alaska.”

I don’t know about Murkowski’s refrigerator, but she’s probably checking the condiment collection.


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