Juneau, Alaska – Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich and independent Al Gross ran for the state’s only seat in the US House of Representatives in the August special election.
Palin and Begich, both Republicans, and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates in last Saturday’s special primary for the seat that remained vacant following the death of Republican Congressman Don Young in March. Young held the seat for 49 years.
The top four voters in the special primary advance to a special election scheduled for August 16 using ranked voting. The winner of this race will serve out the remainder of Young’s tenure, which ends in January.
State election officials released additional vote counts on Wednesday, the first day since the special primary in which counts were conducted. Further counts are planned for Friday and next 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 introduces ranking voting for general elections.
The election went ahead as planned after a tense legal battle over ballot access issues, with the state defending itself against allegations that the way in which voting was conducted primarily by mail discriminated against voters with visual impairments.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, had significant notoriety in an arena that included current and former state legislators and a North Pole city councilman by the name of Santa Claus. Many of the candidates were relative strangers.
Begich comes from a family of prominent Democrats that includes uncles Mark Begich and Tom Begich, both of whom have held elected office. Gross ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2020 with Democratic support. Alaska Democratic Party leaders in that race urged voters to choose a Democrat.
Peltola, who was one of six Democrats on the ballot, is a former state legislator. Sweeney was Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs at the US Department of the Interior during the Trump administration.
Palin released a statement on election night saying she was grateful to her supporters “who voted to make Alaska great again!”
She said she looks forward to the special election so she can “highlight our ideas on how we can fix this country by responsibly developing Alaska’s God-given natural resources, bringing runaway government spending under control, protecting lives and protecting the right owning and bearing arms, and restoring respect for individual liberty and the constitution.”
Palin, running for elected office for the first time since stepping down as governor mid-term in 2009, campaigned for support 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 attended a conference call for her the week before the election.
A primary in August and a general election in November will decide who will serve a two-year term in the House of Representatives, which begins in January. Palin, Begich and Gross are running in this race.
An email asking for comment on the special area code was sent to Begich’s campaign manager on Wednesday.
Begich’s grandfather, Democratic US Rep. Nick Begich, held the seat in the House of Representatives 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 re-elected.
He was later pronounced dead, and Young won a special election for the seat in 1973. Young held the seat until his death at age 88.
The younger Begich also had ties to Young. He co-chaired Young’s 2020 re-election campaign.
He began running for the House seat last fall and presented himself as someone who could bring new energy to the role. He was supported by a number of conservatives and by the Alaska Republican Party.
Begich admitted during a campaign forum with three other Republican candidates last month that people might be surprised that Begich is a Republican. He said he was raised “conservatively” by grandparents in Florida.
Begich said he wants to create a “business case” for the state, including the need to develop the state’s vast natural resources.
Gross came into conflict with some Democrats earlier this year after an interview in which he did not pledge to argue with Democrats if an election is held. He later said he would do it.
Gross’s campaign has said that Gross has no plans to seek support from either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Noting that the largest block of registered voters in Alaska identify as independents, Gross said Alaska needs a “new leader who will represent all Alaskans, not just a portion of Alaska. And I think I’m that guy.”
During his 2020 run, Gross attempted to play up his good faith in Alaska, most notably with an ad that said he had “killed a grizzly bear in self-defense after sneaking up on it.” His campaign also ran a cute ad calling Gross the “bear doctor.”
This time Gross plays it differently. He has a campaign leadership team that includes Republicans, Independents and Democrats, including former Governor Tony Knowles.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/15/palin-begich-gross-advance-in-alaska-us-house-race/ Palin, Begich, Gross advance in the Alaska US House Race