Juno, Alaska – Republican former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich and independent Al Gross have advanced to the August special election for the state’s lone US House seat.
Palin, Begich and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates for last Saturday’s special primary seat, which fell vacant after the death of Republican Representative Don Young in March. Young held the seat for 49 years.
The top four vote-getters in the special primary advance to a special election, scheduled for August 16, in which rank-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 were continuing the counting of votes on Wednesday, the first day after the special primary in which the counting of votes took place. Counting of votes is also planned on Friday and Tuesday.
With 132,730 votes counted, Palin received 28.3%, followed by Begich with 19.3% and Gross with 12.8%. Democrat Mary Peltola received 8.7% and Republican Tara Sweeney received 5.5% of the vote.
The election was unusual in that it was mainly conducted by mail. It was also the first election in 2020 under the voter-approved system, which eliminates party primaries and institutions voting for general elections.
The election went as scheduled after a legal battle over ballot access issues, with the state defending itself against allegations that the way the election was conducted discriminated against visually impaired voters.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, gained significant name recognition in an area that also included current and former state legislators and North Pole City Council members named Santa Claus. Many of the candidate relatives were unknown.
Begich comes from a family of prominent Democrats, including uncles Mark Begich and Tom Begich, who have both held elected office. Gross ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2020 with the backing of state Democrats. In this race, leaders of the Alaska Democratic Party urged voters to choose Democrats.
Peltola, who was one of six Democrats on the ballot, is a former state legislator. Sweeney was the Assistant Secretary of State for Indian Affairs in the US Department of Home Affairs during the Trump administration.
Palin told the Associated Press on Wednesday that she feels good about the campaign she’s running but wants to see the final numbers. In a statement on election night, Palin said she was looking forward to the August special election. Palin said on Wednesday that she would wait to see if she had qualified for the race.
She said she would stay positive and “never play … the politics of personal destruction because I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and I don’t want that to happen to my worst enemy.”
The campaigns of Begich and Gross have reminded voters that Palin has resigned as governor and questioned her intentions to run for the House.
Palin “left Alaska,” Gross said.
“He had the chance to stay in the Battle of Alaska, but chose to pursue cheap fame,” Begich’s campaign said in a fundraising appeal.
In his first bid for elected office since resigning as governor in 2009, Palin blamed his resignation on an onslaught of record requests and ethics complaints, which he said were frivolous. And the attention was distracted.
Palin took issue with those who have questioned her ties or commitment to the state. “I’m so Alaskan, I hit a moose the other night,” she said, adding that her vehicle totaled but she was fine.
During this race, Palin garnered support from several national figures, including former President Donald Trump. Palin was an early supporter of Trump during his 2016 presidential bid, and he attended a telereli for him.
An August primary and November’s general election will decide who serves a two-year House term beginning in January. Palin, Begich and Gross are running in that race. Peltola and Sweeney are also candidates.
Sweeney said in a statement that she would work with her campaign team and supporters to determine “the next steps” in the coming days, when she said it appeared she would be “just short” of going ahead in the special election. .
Begich was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. An email was sent to Gross’s campaign seeking comment.