Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and GOP vice president nominee, is currently leading in early results from Saturday’s special primary as state voters pared down a list of 48 candidates running to replace the late Rep. Don Young, who served as the longest-serving Republican for 49 years.
According to the state Division of Elections, initial results included 108,729 votes but have received over 139,000 ballots. The early results showed Palin with 29.8 percent of the votes counted so far; Republican Nick Begich has 19.3 percent; independent Al Gross at 12.5 percent; Democrat Mary Peltola at 7.5 percent and Republican Tara Sweeney at 5.3 percent.
If we’re looking at name recognition, Santa Claus, listed as an “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” failed to make the cut having only scored 4864 votes—a mere 4.5 percent.
State election officials are scheduled to release more voter tallies later this week, with a final count planned for June 21. The current target date to certify the election is June 25.
The top four candidates, including two Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent, will compete in the August 16 special election in which ranked-choice voting will be used. The winner of that race will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. Young died in March at age 88.
Palin, who celebrated her first election win since 2006 with friends and family at home in Wasilla, released a statement saying the country is at a “turning point,” according to Anchorage Daily News.
“We need to focus on policies that will make life better for the regular Joes out there who can’t afford to fill their gas tanks and are struggling to feed their families because of Joe Biden’s hyperinflation,” in a statement released by Palin’s campaign.
Begich was the first congressional candidate out of the gate last fall and worked to win support among conservatives. Although the businessman comes from a well-known Democratic political family, he was endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party.
Peltola, a Yup’ik Eskimo, and Democrat who represented the Bethel region in the Alaska House of Representatives for a decade, will have an uphill battle as the lone progressive in GOP territory. If elected, she would become the first Indigenous person to represent Alaska in Congress.
Palin’s run marks her first bid for elected office since resigning as governor partway through her term in 2009—a shock for most Alaskan constituents at the time. Former President Donald Trump endorsed her campaign and said Palin would “fight harder than anybody I can think of,” especially on energy issues.
Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who made an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2020 after spending over $19M, said Palin “quit on Alaska.” In an email to supporters during the campaign, Gross said Palin and Begich are candidates who will be hard to beat but said he is “ready and able to take on this fight,” according to Associated Press.