JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin leads in early results from Saturday’s special primary for the state’s only U.S. House seat, as voters whittled down the list of 48 candidates running for the position that was held for 49 years by the late U.S. Rep. Don Young.
The early results showed Palin, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, with 29.8% of the votes counted to this point; Republican Nick Begich had 19.3%; independent Al Gross had 12.5%; Democrat Mary Peltola with 7.5%; and Republican Tara Sweeney had 5.3%.
A candidate whose name is Santa Claus, a self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist,” had 4.5%.
Santa Claus stands in front of the North Pole post office, on April 24, 2022. A self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” whose legal name is Santa Claus has gotten attention but has not been raising money.
Iris Samuels/Anchorage Each day News via AP
The initial results released by the state Division of Elections included 108,729 votes. It was not immediately clear what number of ballots were outstanding. The division reported late Saturday that it had received about 139,000 ballots to this point. Ballots needed to be postmarked by Saturday.
The Associated Press has not called any winners within the special primary.
The highest 4 vote-getters, no matter party affiliation, will advance to an August special election wherein ranked alternative voting can be used. The winner of the special election will serve the rest of Young’s term, which ends in January. Young died in March at age 88.
This election was unlike any the state has seen, full of candidates and conducted primarily by mail. This was the primary election, too, under a system approved by voters in 2020 that ends party primaries and uses ranked alternative voting generally elections.
Saturday marked the primary ballot count; state elections officials plan additional counts on Wednesday and Friday, and a final count on June 21. They’ve targeted June 25 to certify the race.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, released an announcement expressing gratitude “to all of my wonderful supporters who voted to make Alaska great again!”
Earlier Saturday, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed and vacated a lower court order that had barred state election officials from certifying the outcomes of the special primary until visually impaired voters got a “full and fair” opportunity to participate.
Attorneys for the state had interpreted Friday’s order from Superior Court Judge Una Gandbhir as stopping elections officials from concluding voting as scheduled on Saturday. They asked the supreme court to reverse the order.
Sarah Palin leaves a courthouse in Recent York, on Feb. 10, 2022. Sarah Palin on on April 1, 2022, shook up an already unpredictable race for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, filing paperwork to affix a field of a minimum of 40 candidates looking for to fill the seat that had been held for 49 years by the late-U.S. Rep. Don Young.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File
The ruling got here in a case filed days earlier by Robert Corbisier, executive director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. Corbisier sued state elections officials on behalf of an individual identified as B.L., a registered voter in Anchorage with a visible impairment.
The sheer variety of candidates left some voters overwhelmed, and lots of the candidates themselves faced challenges in organising a campaign on the fly and trying to depart an impression on voters in a brief time frame. The candidate filing deadline was April 1.
Relatively few candidates were running for the seat before Young’s death. Begich was among the many early entrants; he launched his campaign last fall and worked to win support amongst conservatives. The businessman, who hails from a family of distinguished Democrats, was endorsed by the Alaska Republican party.
Peltola, a former state lawmaker from Bethel who has been involved in fisheries issues, said earlier this week that she entered the race with low name recognition but believes she’s modified that and has momentum behind her candidacy.
Al Gross, left, an independent running for Alaska’s U.S. House seat, poses beside his wife, Monica Gross, on June 11, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska.
Palin’s run marks her first bid for elected office since resigning as governor partway through her term in 2009. She was endorsed on this campaign by some national political figures, including Trump, who participated in a “telerally” for her and said Palin would “fight harder than anybody I can consider,” particularly on energy issues.
Palin sought to guarantee voters that she is serious about her bid and committed to Alaska.
Throughout the campaign, opponents poked at that. Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who made an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2020, said Palin “quit on Alaska.” Begich and Sweeney made points of claiming they will not be quitters.
Gross, in an email to supporters in the course of the campaign, said Palin and Begich are candidates who can be hard to beat but said he’s “ready and in a position to tackle this fight.”
Sweeney was assistant secretary of Indian Affairs within the U.S. Interior Department under Trump and was endorsed by a bunch that represents leaders of the state’s influential Alaska Native regional corporations.
She said she understands the “pressure cooker” environment of Washington, D.C.