Alaska voters get their first shot at using ranked voting in a statewide race Tuesday in a special U.S. House election in which Sarah Palin seeks a return to elected office.
The special election and regular primaries for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and lieutenant-governor and state legislative seats are on opposite sides of a two-sided ballot. It could take until Aug. 31 to know whether Palin or one of her opponents prevailed in the special election.
The three candidates competing in that race are Republicans Palin and Nick Begich, and Democrat Mary Peltola. The winner will serve the remainder of the late Rep. Don Young’s term. Young, a Republican, held the state’s only House seat for 49 years. He died in March.
Alaska’s elections process, approved by voters in 2020 and used for the first time this year, pairs open primaries, in which all candidates in a race are on the ballot together, with ranked vote general elections. The four candidates with the most votes in each primary race advance to the November general election.
Palin’s record, intelligence attacked
Palin, the 2008 vice-presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, renewed her “drill, baby, drill” calls for increased oil production and said she would use her connections to the benefit of Alaska.
She said the new, voter-approved election system creates confusion and should be changed.
In a recent interview with Steve Bannon, Palin described it as the “newfangled, weirdo voting system we have where it’s mail in-only ballots” and ranked voting. The special election is a traditional election with in-person voting, and voters were able to request absentee ballots.
It remains to be seen if the system will adversely impact the divisive Palin, who could be the target of strategic voting, or have no real impact on the final result.
Begich, a businessman from a family of prominent Democrats, has come out hard against Palin, seeking to cast her as someone chasing fame and a quitter; Palin resigned during her term as governor in 2009. In one Begich ad, a woman says: “I’m voting for smart — not Sarah.”
Palin “does not have a strong track record of effective advocacy for the state and that’s not going to work for us,” Begich said in an interview.
TONIGHT: Jim and Faye Palin, Sarah Palin’s ex-in-laws, are hosting an election eve party for Nick Begich, who is running against Palin for Alaska’s lone seat in the House. <a href=”https://t.co/wvpHY0AGOZ”>pic.twitter.com/wvpHY0AGOZ</a>
Palin’s former father-in-law and his wife held a fundraiser on the final weekend of the race for Begich, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Palin, meanwhile, has questioned Begich’s Republican credentials.
Peltola, a former state legislator, most recently worked at a commission whose goal is to rebuild salmon resources on Alaska’s Kuskokwim River. She has cast herself as a “regular Alaskan” and consensus builder. If successful, she would be the first Alaska Native woman elected to the House.
“Vote, vote, vote and vote for me twice, literally,” Peltola told supporters in Juneau days before the election in urging them to turn out and to tell their friends to vote.
Murkowski battles Trump-backed candidate
All three said they planned to pursue a full, two-year House term, regardless of how the special election turns out. They, along with Republican Tara Sweeney, who was an assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Interior Department during the Trump administration, were the most prominent candidates in a 22-person field in the U.S. House primary.
Sweeney also filed days before the special election as a write-in candidate for that race. Palin’s campaign on Friday sent an email wrongly stating there were no official write-in candidates in the race.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski faces 18 challengers in a primary in which the top four vote-getters will advance to November’s general election.
Murkowski, a moderate who has been in the Senate for nearly 20 years and has at times been at odds with her party, is expected to get her biggest from Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is backed by Trump.
Murkowski was one of just seven Republican senators who voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial after the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, but the only one who is having her convictions tested by voters in the 2022 election cycle.
Trump, who was acquitted in that Senate trial after being impeached for the second time in his presidency by the Democrat-led House, has lashed out against Murkowski after her vote.
The most visible Democrat in the race is retired educator Pat Chesbro, who jumped in late and has struggled to gain fundraising traction. The other candidates in the field have even lower profiles.