Former Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich and Independent Al Gross qualified for the August special election for the state’s only seat in the U.S. House.
Palin, Begich and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates in last Saturday’s special primary for the seat, which remained vacant following the March death of Republican Representative Don Young. Young had held the seat for 49 years.
The top four voters in the special primary qualify for a special election, scheduled for August 16, in which ranked-choice voting will be used. The winner of that race will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January.
State election officials released the vote tally on Wednesday, the first day since the special primary in which the counts took place. Counts are also scheduled for Friday and Tuesday.
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% and Republican Tara Sweeney had 5.5%.
The election was unusual in that it was conducted primarily by mail. It was also the first election under a voter-approved system in 2020 that ends party primaries and institutes ranked voting for general elections.
The election went as planned following a legal battle over ballot access issues, with the state defending itself against accusations that the way the election was conducted was discriminatory to the state. towards visually impaired voters.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, rose to significant prominence in a field that also included current and former state lawmakers and a North Pole City Council member whose name is Santa Claus. Many candidates were strangers.
Begich comes from a family of prominent Democrats, including uncles Mark Begich and Tom Begich, who both served in elected office. Gross ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2020 with the endorsement of state Democrats. Alaska Democratic Party leaders in this race have urged voters to choose a Democrat.
Peltola, who was one of six Democrats on the ballot, is a former state lawmaker. Sweeney was Under Secretary for Indian Affairs in the US Department of the Interior during the Trump administration.
Palin told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she felt good about the campaign she was running but wanted to see the final numbers. In an election night statement, Palin said she was looking forward to the August special election. Palin said Wednesday she would look forward to it whether she qualified for the race or not.
She said she would stay positive and “never play … the policy of personal destruction because I’ve been a victim of it, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to my worst enemy.”
The Begich and Gross campaigns reminded voters that Palin resigned as governor and questioned her motives for running for the House.
Palin “left Alaska,” Gross said.
“She had a chance to stay in the fight for Alaska, but she chose to chase cheap stardom,” Begich’s campaign said in a fundraising appeal.
Palin, who is running for the first time for elected office since stepping down as governor midway through her term in 2009, attributed her resignation to a flurry of requests for records and ethics complaints that she’s labeled as frivolous and become distractions.
Palin took issue with those who questioned her ties or commitment to the state. “I’m so from Alaska that I hit a moose the other night,” she said, adding that her vehicle was destroyed but she was fine.
During that run, Palin has 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 appeared on a conference call for her.
An August primary and November general election will decide who serves a two-year term in the House beginning in January. Palin, Begich and Gross run in this race. Peltola and Sweeney are also candidates.
Sweeney, in a statement, said she would meet with her campaign team and supporters in the coming days to determine ‘next steps’ after saying it looked like she ‘wouldn’t be close’ to qualifying for special elections.
Begich was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. An email seeking comment was sent to Gross’ campaign.
Begich’s grandfather, Democratic U.S. Representative Nick Begich, held the House seat before Young. In 1972, the elder Begich was running against Young when Begich’s plane went missing on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Begich was nevertheless re-elected.
He was later pronounced dead, and Young in 1973 won a special election for the seat. Young held the seat until his death at age 88.
Young Begich also had ties to Young. He served as co-chair of Young’s 2020 re-election campaign.
He started running for the House seat last fall and presented himself as someone who could bring new energy to the role. It was endorsed by a number of conservatives and by the Alaska Republican Party.
Begich, at a campaign forum with three other Republican candidates last month, acknowledged that people might be surprised that a Begich is a Republican. He said he was raised “conservative” by grandparents in Florida.
Begich said he wanted to present a “business case” for the state, including the need to develop Alaska’s vast natural resources.
Gross crossed paths with some Democrats following an interview in which he did not commit to caucusing with Democrats if elected. He later said he would.
Gross’s campaign said Gross does not plan to seek endorsement from the Democratic or Republican parties.
Gross noted Saturday that the largest bloc of registered voters in Alaska identify as independents and said Alaska needs a “new leader who represents all Alaskans, not just part of Alaska.” . And I believe I am that guy.
During his 2020 run, Gross sought to showcase his ties to Alaska, including with an ad that said he “killed a grizzly bear in self-defense after it snuck up on him.” His campaign also ran a cute ad referring to Gross as “the bear doctor.”
This time Gross is playing it differently. He has a campaign leadership team that includes Republicans, independents and Democrats, including former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat.