Former Alaska governor and Republican ex-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin leads the first results of Saturday’s special primary for the single seat of the U.S. House in what could be a remarkable political resurgence.
Voters in the far northwestern state narrow the list of 48 candidates running for the position US Representative Don Young held for 49 years.
Early results showed that Palin, backed by Donald Trump, had so far counted 29.8% of the vote; Republican Nick Begich had 19.3%; independent Al Gross had 12.5%; Democrat Mary Peltola at 7.5%; and Republican Tara Sweeney had 5.3%.
A candidate whose name is Santa Claus, a self-proclaimed “independent, progressive, democratic socialist,” had 4.5%.
In a statement, Palin said she looked forward to “restoring this country by responsibly developing Alaska’s God-given resources” and then addressed right-wing discussions about gun rights, abortion and a desire for smaller government.
The top four votes, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to a special election in August, using ranking choice votes. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. Young died in March at the age of 88.
This election was unlike anything the state has seen, packed with candidates and conducted mainly by mail. This was also the first election under a voter-approved system in 2020 that ends party primaries and rank-based voting used in general elections.
Saturday marked the first count of votes; State election officials are planning additional counts on Wednesday and Friday, and a final count on June 21. They have targeted June 25 to certify the race.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, released a statement expressing his gratitude “to all my amazing supporters who voted to make Alaska great again!”
The sheer number of candidates left some voters overwhelmed and many of the candidates themselves faced challenges in campaigning and trying to impress voters in a short period of time. The deadline for submitting candidates was April 1.
Palin’s run marks her first run for elected office since she stepped down as governor midway through her term in 2009. She was supported in this campaign by some national political figures who took part in a “telerally” for her, saying that Palin would “fight harder than anyone can imagine”, particularly on energy issues.
Palin tried to assure voters that she takes her offer seriously and is committed to Alaska.
During the campaign, opponents poked at it. Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who failed the U.S. Senate in 2020, said Palin is “quitting Alaska.” Begich and Sweeney said they are not quitters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report