Alaska special election: Home race pits Sarah Palin against a crowded field

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Voting in Alaska’s special primary to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R) will end on Saturday as four dozen candidates – including former running mate Sarah Palin – face off, according to news reports. unusual rules.

With celebrity status and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, Palin is the most prominent candidate in a crowded field. But her popularity in Alaska has faded since she was governor, and a new ranked voting system — designed to elect candidates with broad support — could complicate her candidacy.

The Alaska Republican Party, meanwhile, endorsed Nick Begich III, a former Young campaign co-chairman from a well-known family in Democratic politics in the state. He launched his candidacy before Young’s death and ran as the most conservative candidate.

“Will America chase fame, what you might call fame?” Begich said in an interview Friday. “Or will America pursue sound policy, thoughtful policy and representation that aligns with that?”

Palin’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview or comment.

Young’s sudden death at age 88 in March sparked a race to fill Alaska’s only seat in the House. In addition to Young’s former campaign staffers, the field includes a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist from the town of North Pole who has legally changed his name to Santa Claus.

“A special election as open as Alaska,” the editorial board of the Anchorage Daily News declared.

Alaska has reliably favored Republicans for federal office in recent years. But the state also has more undeclared or nonpartisan voters than registered Republicans and Democrats combined, and longtime Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is a key vote in Congress. Alaskans voted for scrap traditional party primaries in 2020, underscoring their independent political streak.

From now on, four candidates will go from one ballot to one, regardless of party. The special election primary will largely be conducted by mail, although there are some in-person voting locations – so results may be slow in coming. – or sooner. As of Wednesday, more than 117,000 ballots out of more than half a million in total had been received, according to election officials.

The Alaskans will rank the four finalists in August. If no one obtains more than 50% of the first-choice votes, the candidates with the fewest votes will be successively eliminated and the ballots cast in their favor will be reallocated according to the preferences of the voters.

The bizarre process could hurt Palin’s chances, given her polarization, said Jim Lottsfeldt, a longtime political consultant in Alaska who works for bipartisan candidates and whose firm worked for a super PAC backing the US. one of Palin’s opponents, Republican Tara Sweeney. . In a May poll by Alaska Survey Research, Palin LEDs narrowly in the first round, but was knocked out in the ranked pick.

Sarah Palin is a candidate for Congress. Many Alaskans are skeptical of him.

Once a highly regarded governor of Alaska with little national profile, Palin expanded her political footprint beyond her home state in 2008 when she joined then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s ticket. Palin excited the Republican base but quickly gained a reputation for mocking gaffes on “Saturday Night Live.”

Less than a year after she and McCain lost the presidential election, Palin resigned as governor, a move that earned her widespread criticism in Alaska. She went on to champion the conservative tea party movement and land a lucrative book deal and reality TV appearances.

“I think she may have left us somewhere on the path to glory,” local conservative official Jesse Sumner told The Washington Post this spring.

Palin declared her candidacy for the Alaska House seat just before the filing deadline, focusing on concerns about inflation and the need for “energy security” in a statement posted on social media. “As I watched the far left destroy the country,” she wrote, “I knew I had to step in and join the fight.” Trump announced his support a few days later, noting that Palin had endorsed him early in his presidential bid.

On Twitter, Palin also touted endorsements from Donald Trump Jr., conservative radio host Dan Bongino, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and more. Begich sought to downplay the former president’s decision to enter the contest.

“Alaskans are very independent people, and we’ll think for ourselves,” Begich said in Friday’s interview when asked about the influence of Trump’s endorsement. He highlighted his endorsements of Alaskan leaders.

Santa Claus is seen as a real contender to finish in the top four. But the North Pole city council member is only running for the remainder of Young’s term. Another election will determine Young’s longer-term successor through a primary and ranked vote in August in November. More than 30 people are running.

Alaska is having the craziest election of 2022

Claus isn’t the only Liberal candidate in the mix. Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant and former Alaska legislator Mary Peltola are running as Democrats, among others. Al Gross, who won the 2020 Democratic Senate nomination, identifies as nonpartisan in the special ballot.

The field includes several Native candidates who would be Alaska’s first Native representative to Congress.

This year, the new ranked election system has the potential to boost Murkowski, the moderate Alaskan senator seeking re-election amid attacks from her right. Trump has targeted moderate Republicans across the country for their votes to impeach him or certify defeat in the 2020 election, and Murkowski voted last year to remove him from office after his supporters stormed the Capitol. American.

Trump has endorsed a challenger for the Senate, Kelly Tshibaka. But it remains to be seen how much he will influence the race. Murkowski has survived challenges within her party before: In 2010, she was re-elected as a written candidate after losing the Republican primary.

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