NOTNo matter what people say about the political contest unfolding in Alaska — and people have a lot to say — there’s one thing they all agree on: the race for the single seat in Congress will be the most open. for half a century.
The most obvious reason is that the person who held the seat for 49 years, Republican Don Young, who was first elected in 1973, died in March. It was his death at the age of 88 that triggered the special election to replace him, a contest that has so far attracted around 50 candidates.
Interest in the election was partly attributed to the new open primary system, which was adopted for the first time.
In June, voters will cast their ballots and the top four names will stand in the second round, or general election, which will use preferential voting.
Attention to the race has no doubt intensified as one of the candidates is Sarah Palin, 58, a former mayor of Wasilla who later served as Alaska’s 9th governor from 2006 to 2009.
The outspoken populist is probably best known for being the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee alongside Arizona Sen. John McCain, the first woman on the top GOP ticket, and only the second for a great party. While some mocked Palin and condemned McCain for choosing someone the DC establishment deemed unqualified for such a job, others were impressed with Palin’s authenticity and her skills as a communicator.
Palin, who has spent the past decade in semi-retirement on the right-wing, conservative circuit of Fox News and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), announced earlier this month that she was joining the field already crowded.
“Today I am announcing my candidacy for the United States House seat representing Alaska,” she posted on Facebook. “Public service is a calling, and I would be honored to represent the men and women of Alaska in Congress, just as Rep Young has done for 49 years.”
She added: “America is at a tipping point. As I saw the extreme left destroying the country, I knew I had to step in and join the fight. Residents of the great state of Alaska, like others across the country, are struggling with out-of-control inflation, empty shelves and some of the highest gas prices in the world.
She quickly received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, bringing more attention to the race.
“Sarah shocked a lot when she backed me up early in 2016, and we won big,” Trump said. “Now it’s my turn! Sarah has been a champion for Alaskan values, Alaskan energy, Alaskan jobs, and great Alaskan people.
Sarah Palin Says She’d Replace Late Rep. Don Young “In a Heartbeat”
But while Palin may have the most name recognition, endorsement from a fellow populist and CPAC favorite, it’s not clear she can pull it off. At the very least, she will have a fight on her hands.
And she’s going to have to fight a whole host of other candidates, including a city council member from the North Pole, Alaska, near the city of Fairbanks, who 17 years ago legally changed his name to Santa Claus.
He supports many of Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders’ policies and says his campaign doesn’t take a lot of money.
Another candidate, Emil Notti, 89, is an Alaskan native who wants to draw attention to climate change, the effects of which he and many scientists believe are being seen in Alaska.
Yet another candidate, Nick Begich III, is a Republican member of a historic Democratic political family.
He is running for the seat once held by his grandfather. Nick Begich Sr was elected to Alaska’s only congressional seat in 1970, but was one of four people presumed dead when their light aircraft went missing on a 1972 flight from Anchorage to Juneau. His body has never been found.
One uncle, Mark Begich, is a former Democratic senator from Alaska, while another uncle, Tom Begich, is currently a Democratic state senator.
“I’ve been a Republican all my life, since the first time I registered to vote. I am a conservative. You know, I think Don Young and I share a lot of the same views on a number of policies, he told the Anchorage Daily News. “I would say I’m probably a little to the right of Don, but at the end of the day, it’s conservative principles that I hold.”
Ivan Moore, a Briton who moved to Alaska three decades ago and is a consultant and pollster, said a survey he conducted in October suggested Palin had a favorable opinion of around 31%. At one point, his negative rating was in the 60s. That’s nothing new, he says.
After her resignation as governor, he said, some people assumed that the work she had done was decent, but that she was a “fruitcake”.
Is there anything she can do to increase her grades?
“Not really. I think she can make it to the last four,” he said. The Independent. “But I don’t think she goes beyond that.”
He says the preferential voting system allows — and requires — candidates to have broader appeal. Her poll suggests Palin’s core support could be as low as eight percent.
(Palin’s campaign did not respond to questions.)
Emil Notti is one of those who remember how it all started. In 1973, he was among those who challenged Young for the open seat created by Begich’s disappearance.
Initially, Begich, a Democrat, beat Young even though the plane was missing, making him one of five people Washington Post noted who were elected to Congress even though they were dead.
A new election had to be ordered. In the final showdown between Notti and Young, the Republican won 51.41-48.6, a margin of just 1,921 votes, which the Democrat attributes to the fact that Young’s name had been on the ballot for a while. year, while he only contested a few months.
Although he lost in 1973, Notti believes he has a chance this time around.
“I am an underdog. I think there will be a lot of money in this race,” he says from Anchorage.
“I hope people get tired of the slick advertisements and black money from different places coming into the state. I hope we get a backlash against them.
Notti, who is of Koyukon Athabaskan descent, says he’s not intimidated by Palin’s presence in the race.
“Well, she’s very well known. She got the endorsement of Donald Trump. She will get a lot of money,” he says.
“But I don’t think she will do better than any other candidate. I think it’s a pretty even playing field, even with all the money behind it.
Notti said he wants to draw attention to climate change with his campaign.
“One of the big issues is the environment. There is a lot of pressure to develop Alaska. Development must come – we have a growing population. But it’s a matter of how we do it,” he says.
“We must enforce environmental laws and ensure that development is beneficial and not destructive.”
Why had he decided to jump after all these years?
“Well, there are 48 people in the running right now,” he says. “And I thought my chances were pretty good.”
Another person who also relies on small donations certainly has some kind of name recognition: a 75-year-old council member from the North Pole, who changed his name to Santa Claus after a spiritual experience told him to. .
Claus – “Please call me Santa. Claus makes me feel so old” – says he uses his recognizable name platform to work across the United States and Alaska on child protection issues.
A Christian monk and two-term council member, Claus says that before changing his name in 2005, he served as a special assistant to the assistant commissioner of the New York police and a member of the National Defense Agency’s executive reserve. federal emergency management. .
His website says he is “an independent, progressive, democratic socialist and shares many of the positions of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.”
Speaking from the North Pole, Claus says he thinks the issues most important to him are Medicare for All, joining a union, LGBTQ rights, canceling student debt , expanding broadband access and education.
He is also a supporter of a strong army. “Alaska is only 50 miles from Russia,” he says. “So it’s a consideration and our collaboration with other nations to share space here, and energy and oil, gas and coal and renewables.”
He says that as a progressive at the North Pole, he is “a blue speck in a red sea”. Still, he says he’s not intimidated by Palin’s presence or the money she might bring.
Asked about his chances, he thinks they are “rather good” if he passes the primary given the ranking voting system.
“If I pass the primary, I think I can be the guy who will win,” he said. “Because I think I’ll be some people’s first choice and a lot of people’s second choice.”