Palin, 2 others advance to special election for only Alaska House seat
Juneau, Alaska — Republican former Alaska Gov. Al Gross, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, both Republicans, have advanced to the August special elections for the state’s one U.S. House seat.
Palin, Begich and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates in last Saturday’s special primary for the seat, which was left vacant following the death in March of Republican Rep. Don Young. Young had held the seat for 49 years.
The top four vote-getters in the special primary advance to a special election, set for Aug. 16, in which ranked choice voting will be used. The winner of this race will serve the remainder Young’s term which ends in January.
On Wednesday, officials from the state elections released the vote counts for the first time since the special primary was held. Counts are also planned for Tuesday and Friday.
With 132,730 votes counted, Palin had 28.3%, followed by Begich with 19.3% and Gross with 12.8%. Democrat Mary Peltola had 8.7%, while Republican Tara Sweeney had 5.5%.
The election was unusual in that it was conducted primarily via mail. It also was the first election under a system approved by voters in 2020 that ends party primaries and institutes ranked voting for general elections. The election went ahead as planned after a legal battle over ballot access issues. The state was defending itself against claims that the election was unfairly held against voters with visual impairments.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, held significant name recognition in a field that also included current and former state legislators and a North Pole city council member whose name is Santa Claus. Many of the candidates were relatively unknown.
Begich is from a family of prominent Democrats that includes his uncles Tom Begich and Mark Begich who both served as elected officials. Gross unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 with the endorsement of state Democrats. In this race, Alaska Democratic party leaders urged voters not to vote for a Republican.
Peltola was one of six Democrats who were on the ballot. He is a former state legislator. Sweeney was the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior under the Trump administration.
Palin said Wednesday that she was happy with the campaign she ran, but she wanted to see the final numbers. Palin stated that she was looking forward the August special election in a statement made on election night. Palin stated Wednesday that she was looking forward to the August special election, regardless of whether she has been selected for the race.
She stated that she would remain positive and not “play… the politics if personal destruction” because she has been the one who suffered that.
The campaigns of Begich, Gross and others have reminded Palin’s voters that she resigned from her position as governor and raised questions about her motives for running for the House.
Palin has “quit on Alaska,” Gross stated.
“She had the opportunity to fight for Alaska, but she chose cheap fame,” Begich’s campaign stated in a fundraising appeal.
Palin, making her first bid for elected office since resigning as governor partway through her term in 2009, attributed her resignation to an onslaught of records requests and ethics complaints she said were frivolous and had become distractions.
Palin criticized those who questioned her commitment to the state. “I’m so Alaskan, I hit a bear the other night,” she said. She also stated that her car was totaled but that she was fine.
During this race, Palin touted endorsements from a number of national figures, including former President Donald Trump. Palin was an early supporter of Trump during his 2016 presidential bid, and he participated in a telerally for her.
The two-year House term will begin in January. It will be decided by the November general election and the August primary. Gross, Begich, and Palin are all running for this race. Sweeney and Peltola are also candidates.
Sweeney stated in a statement that she would meet with her campaign team members and supporters to determine “next steps” following her announcement that it appeared she would “fall just short of” the special election.
Begich was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Gross’ campaign was contacted with a request for comment.
Begich was the grandfather of Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Begich who held the House seat before Young. In 1972, the elder Begich was running against Young when Begich’s plane disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. However, Begich was reelected.
He was later declared dead and Young in 1973 won a special election for the seat. Young held the seat until his death at age 88.
The younger Begich also had ties with Young. He was a co-chair of Young’s reelection campaign in 2020.
He ran for the House seat last autumn and cast himself as someone who could bring energy to the position. He has been supported by a number conservatives as well as the Alaska Republican Party.
Begich acknowledged that people might be surprised to learn that a Begich was a Republican during a forum last month. He stated that he was raised in Florida by his grandparents who were conservative.
Begich stated that he would make a “business case for the state,” including the need to exploit Alaska’s vast natural resources. After an interview in which
Gross did not promise to join the caucus with Democrats if elected, he became cross-wise with some Democrats. Later, he said that he would.
Gross campaign stated that Gross doesn’t plan to seek endorsements from either of the Democratic or Republican parties.
Gross noted Saturday that the largest group of registered voters in Alaska identify themselves as independents. He said Alaska needs a “new leader” who represents all Alaskans and not just a portion of Alaska. I believe I am that guy.”
During his 2020 run, Gross sought to play up his Alaska ties, notably with an ad that said he “killed a grizzly bear in self defense after it snuck up on him.” Gross was also referred to as the “bear doctor” in a cute ad.
This is Gross’s take on it. Gross has a campaign leadership team which includes Republicans, Democrats, and independents, including a former governor. Tony Knowles, a Democrat.
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