Palin, Begich Battle for Late Congressman’s Seat In Alaska Special General Election

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Donald Trump-endorsed Sarah Palin, her GOP rival Nick Begich III, and Democrat Mary Peltola will go head-to-head in Alaska’s special general election on Aug. 16 to serve out the remaining months of late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term until January.

All three partisan contenders are also on the ballot for the regular primary on Aug. 16 for the same seat for the next two years.

Though it sounds confusing, it reflects Alaska’s new non-partisan primary system in which all candidates appear on the ballot regardless of party affiliation.

In a 48-way special primary on June 11 following Young’s death in March—Palin, Begich, Peltola, and Al Gross, an Independent, were the top-four vote-getters in the election.

This allowed them to move on to the special general election and the winner of that election will serve out the remaining three months of Young’s term.

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Al Gross (C)  pauses for a photo with supporters during a sign-waving along Seward Highway, on Election Day in Anchorage, Alaska, on Nov. 3, 2020. Gross dropped out of the race to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) in the regular primary election on Aug. 16, 2022. (Michael Dinneen/AP Photo)

The ballot for the primary election features 22 candidates, and the top four will advance to the Nov. 8 general election for a two-year seat in the U.S. House.

Gross, the third top vote-getter in the June 11 special primary, has since dropped out of the race, endorsing Peltola and Republican contender Tara Sweeney in the non-partisan “Pick One” regular primary on Aug. 16.

“A Non-Partisan Pick One primary is used to determine the top four vote-getters that will advance to the general election, regardless of political affiliation,” according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

Under the state’s laws a primary election “does not have to be a member of a political party or a political group, to run for office.”

Alaskans approved the new system in a ballot measure in the 2020 election.

Long List of Candidates

Young was Alaska’s longest-serving member of Congress, having been 49 years in office. As the nation’s largest state, Alaska incorporates 665,400 square miles with a total population of around 774,000.

The Republican candidates in the regular primary are Palin, Begich, Tara Sweeney, Jay Armstrong, Robert Lyons, Randy Purham, Brad Snowden, and Denise Williams.

Peltola is running unopposed.

Chris Bye and J.R. Myers are vying for the seat as Libertarians.

Former Alaska governor Palin emerged as the clear front-runner in the June special primary with 27 percent of the vote, while software company Begich garnered 19 percent. Peltola received 10 percent and Gross 13 percent.

Palin, 58, served as the ninth governor of Alaska from 2006 until her resignation in 2009 amid legal troubles.

The late U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) chose Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008. She was the nation’s second female vice presidential nominee after Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, in 1984.

On her website, Palin said that Alaskans “expect—and deserve—a close relationship with the folks who represent them in Congress, and this is one way I’m working to facilitate a direct dialogue with the hard-working men and women of Alaska.”

Palin Faces Critics

Her opponents, however, have criticized her for spending more time out of state.

With Trump’s endorsement, quasi-celebrity status, and name recognition, Palin continued to enjoy front-runner status as she campaigned in the lower 48 states last week. Her most recent appearance was at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas.

Begich and Peltola, however, remained in Alaska to shore up voter support in the final runup to the election.

Neither candidate responded to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

Begich currently leads with over $1.3 million in campaign financing. Palin has raised just over $1 million while Peltola has $379,000.

Begich, 44, is the grandson of Nick Begich Sr., the Alaska House representative who disappeared in a plane crash in 1972. He is the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and current Alaska Rep. Tom Begich.

In 2018, Trump endorsed Sweeney to serve as the 13th assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her.

Like Peltola, Sweeney is running for the U.S. House seat to be the first Native American representative from Alaska.

“I am a registered Republican, and I’m running for Congress to focus on the future. My career has been focused on fighting for Alaska in Washington, and I want to use that experience to serve Alaskans in Congress,” Sweeney told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.

Palin has been under fire from liberal circles over her conservative stance on critical issues since entering the national spotlight.

In February, Palin lost her defamation case against The New York Times, claiming the newspaper defamed her in a June 2017 editorial linking a campaign ad with a mass shooting 10 months later in Tucson, Arizona. Trump endorsed her in April.

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Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.