Alaska voters will choose Saturday from a huge list of candidates in a special election to fill the late Republican’s seatwho represented Alaska from 1973 until his death earlier this year at age 88.
Former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is one of 48 candidates running in the open primaries. Palin, Republican businessman Nick Begich III and independent fisherman and doctor Al Gross, who ran for the Senate in 2020, are seen as the most likely to make it to the next round.
A May poll by Alaska Survey Research had Palin, Begich and Gross in the top three. Santa Claus, a Democratic socialist and current mayor of the Arctic, Alaska, came fourth in the poll.
Former President Donald Trumpwithin days of launching her campaign and held a tele-rally for her earlier this month. In a radio ad, Palin says she’s “in this for the long haul. I’m not here to climb a political ladder like career politicians do. I’m going to see this through and earn your support.”
Begich III worked for Young’s 2020 campaign and the Republican State Party. He is a leader in fundraising, with $1.18 million raised and more than $716,000 in cash. He is also the grandson of the late Congressman Nick Begich, a Democrat who represented Alaska until his presumed death in a plane crash in 1972.
Gross ran as an independent in his failed 2020 race against Republican Dan Sullivan, but was backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. For this race he has joined his independent label. After the US Supreme Court’s draft opinion on Roe v. Wade leaked, Gross criticized both sides.
“The Democrats had 50 years to codify Roe v. Wade into law and instead used the decision as a political tool to get votes for candidates who rarely keep the promises they make to us,” Gross wrote. He said if elected, he will consult with whichever party is in the majority, according to an interview with the Anchorage Daily News.
Other candidates include Democratic State Representative Adam Wool and former State Representative Mary Peltola. Republican Senator Josh Revak, a former campaign co-chair for Young who is backed by Young’s widow, is also active.
With a vote reform passed in 2020, the state is using a new system for the primaries. The top four voters in the primary will advance to a special general election on August 16. The full list of those candidates may not be known until June 21, the last day for ballot receipts. Alaska’s Election Division must certify the results on June 25.
Alaska sent ballots to all registered voters in late April, although in-person voting was still available.
Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system will be put to the test for the special election on August 16, the same day as the state’s regular primaries. On that day, voters rank candidates from first to fourth place for the special election. A candidate who breaks 50% in that first round would win. If no one wins half the votes, the count continues and the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated until only two are left.
The candidate with the most votes at that time wins the seat.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Rep. Don Young was killed in a plane crash. According to the Anchorage Daily News, he lost consciousness during a flight and later died. The article has been updated.