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51 candidates running for Alaska House seat

Voters in Alaska will choose from dozens of candidates running to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R) in a special election in June that is as unique and wild as the state itself, as election officials experiment with a new ranked-choice voting system never before used in electing a member of Congress.

The candidates include some prominent names, with former Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 nominee for vice president, at the top of the list. Palin entered the race late Friday with just minutes to spare before the filing deadline and later won an important endorsement from former President Trump.

She will vie with Nick Begich III (R), the grandson and namesake of the last person to hold the seat before Young. The late Rep. Nick Begich, a Democrat, disappeared while campaigning when his plane crashed 50 years ago, before Young himself won a special election to fill the vacancy.

Former Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R), state Sen. Josh Revak (R), former Interior Department official Tara Sweeney (R) and Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant (D) are also running. So is Al Gross, an independent who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 2020.

Alaska’s political scene is small enough that many of the candidates have histories with each other. Revak and Sweeney were both co-chairs of Young’s reelection campaign. Palin will face Andrew Halcro, an independent who took almost 10 percent of the vote when he ran against her for governor in 2006.

The race has drawn its share of unusual contenders as well. Santa Claus, a member of the City Council in tiny North Pole who legally changed his name from Thomas O’Connor in 2005, filed to run. So did Emil Notti, a Democrat who lost the special election that sent Young to Congress 49 years ago.

One candidate, Jesse Sumner, told the Alaska Dispatch News he had filed as an April Fool’s joke; he said he would withdraw his name from the ballot by the noon deadline on Monday. But Sumner’s family still has a candidate in the race: Sumner’s brother Max, who owns a homebuilding company, also filed to run.

The election will be the first contest for a U.S. House seat run under Alaska’s new hybrid ranked-choice voting system. The top four candidates in the June 11 all-party primary will advance to the general election, to be held Aug. 16.

In that August election, held on the same day as the state’s regular primary election, voters will rank their choices. If no candidate receives an outright majority, votes cast for the last-place finisher will be redistributed, a process that continues until someone claims more than half the vote.

Alaska is not the first state to send a member to Congress using ranked-choice voting. The system was first used in Maine, where Rep. Jared Golden (D) ousted then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) in 2018 after two rounds of redistribution.

Tags Alaska Don Young Don Young Nick Begich Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
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