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Palin and two others advance to special elections for the only seat in the Alaska House of Representatives

Juneau, AK — Former Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich and Independent Al Gross advanced to the August special election to fill the state’s only US House seat.

Palin, Begich and Gross, an orthopedic surgeon, were among 48 candidates in last Saturday’s special primary for the seat, which became vacant following the March death of Republican Rep. Don Young. Young had held the position for 49 years.

The top four vote winners in the special primary advance to a special election, scheduled for August 16, in which ranked-choice voting will be used. The winner of that race will serve out the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January.

State election officials released the vote counts on Wednesday, the first day since the special primary in which the counts were conducted. Counts are also scheduled for Friday and Tuesday.

With 132,730 votes counted, Palin got 28.3%, followed by Begich with 19.3% and Gross with 12.8%. Democrat Mary Peltola had 8.7% and Republican Tara Sweeney 5.5%.

The election was unusual in that it was conducted primarily by mail. It was also the first election under a voter-approved system in 2020 that ends party primaries and institutes ranked voting for the general election.

The election went ahead as scheduled after a legal fight over ballot access issues, with the state defending itself against accusations that the way it was conducted discriminated against visually impaired voters.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, garnered significant name recognition in a field that also included current and former state legislators and a North Pole city council member whose name is Santa Claus. Many of the candidates were relatively unknown.

Begich comes from a family of prominent Democrats, including uncles Mark Begich and Tom Begich, who have both served in elected office. Gross ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate in 2020 with the backing of state Democrats. Alaska Democratic Party leaders in this race urged voters to choose a Democrat.

Peltola, who was one of six Democrats on the ticket, is a former state legislator. Sweeney was Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the US Department of the Interior during the Trump administration.

Palin told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she felt good about the campaign she had run but wanted to see the final numbers. In a statement on election night, Palin said he was looking forward to the August special election. Palin said Wednesday that he would look forward to whether or not he had qualified for the race.

She said she would stay positive and “never play … the politics of personal destruction because I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to my worst enemy.”

The Begich and Gross campaigns have reminded voters that Palin resigned as governor and questioned her motives for running for the House.

Palin “gave up Alaska,” Gross said.

“She had the opportunity to stay in the fight for Alaska, but chose to pursue cheap fame,” Begich’s campaign said in a fundraising appeal.

Palin, making her first run for elected office since resigning as governor midterm in 2009, blamed her resignation on a spate of records requests and ethics complaints that she said were frivolous and had become distractions.

Palin took issue with those who have questioned her ties or commitment to the state. “I’m so Alaskan that I hit a moose the other night,” she said, adding that her vehicle was totaled but she was fine.

During this run, Palin touted endorsements from various national figures, including former President Donald Trump. Palin was an early supporter of Trump during his 2016 presidential bid and participated in a telerally for her.

An August primary election and a November general election will decide who serves a two-year term in the House beginning in January. Palin, Begich and Gross participate in that race. Peltola and Sweeney are also candidates.

Sweeney said in a statement that he would meet with his campaign team and supporters in the coming days to determine “next steps” after he said it appeared he would “fall short” of advancing to the special election.

Begich was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. An email seeking comment was sent to the Gross campaign.

Begich’s grandfather, Democratic US Representative Nick Begich, held the House seat before Young. In 1972, the older Begich was competing against Young when Begich’s plane disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Nonetheless, Begich was reelected.

He was later declared dead, and Young in 1973 won a special election for the seat. Young held the position until his death at the age of 88.

The younger Begich also had ties to Young. He was a co-chairman of Young’s 2020 re-election campaign.

He began running for the House seat last fall and cast himself as someone who could bring new energy to the role. He has been endorsed by several conservatives and by the Alaska Republican Party.

Begich, during a campaign forum with three other GOP candidates last month, acknowledged that people might be surprised that Begich is a Republican. He said he was raised “conservative” by his grandparents in Florida.

Begich said he wants to make a “business case” for the state, including the need to develop Alaska’s vast natural resources.

Gross was angry with some Democrats after an interview in which he did not commit to meeting with Democrats if elected. He later said that he would.

Gross’s campaign has said that Gross does not plan to seek endorsement from the Democratic or Republican parties.

Gross noted Saturday that the largest bloc of registered voters in Alaska identifies as independent and said Alaska needs a “new leader who represents all Alaskans, not just one part of Alaska. And I think I’m that Type”.

During his 2020 run, Gross tried to highlight his ties to Alaska, notably with an ad stating that he “killed a grizzly bear in self-defense after it approached him.” His campaign also ran a cheesy ad referring to Gross as the “bear doctor.”

This time, Gross is playing it differently. He has a campaign leadership team that includes Republicans, independents and Democrats, including former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat.

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