Alaska sets special election to replace late Rep. Don Young

Greg Nash

Alaska officials are moving to hold a special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Don Young (R) by August, the first in state history to be conducted almost entirely by mail.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) told reporters Tuesday he will sign a proclamation declaring Young’s seat vacant and ordering a new election as soon as Wednesday, setting a special all-party primary election to be held June 11.

The four top candidates will face off in an August 16 general election. In that runoff, voters will be allowed to rank their preferred candidates, the first election to be held under Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system.

Holding such a quick primary election — just 80 days after Dunleavy’s proclamation — will allow the state to avoid the costs of holding yet another election, said Gail Fenumiai, the director of Alaska’s Division of Elections. To mount an election so quickly, Alaska will rely on mail-in ballots, though voters will still be allowed to vote in person at regional elections offices, according to Alaska Public Media.

“The vote-by-mail option is pretty much the only way we can go and still have a successful primary special election,” said Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R), whose office oversees election administration.

But voters may face confusion at the polls: The August 16 general election coincides with the state’s primary, meaning voters will have two chances to vote for Young’s replacement. The winner of the special election would fill out the remainder of his term, through the end of 2022. Those who advance in the primary on the same day will move to a November election, in which voters will be electing a new member of Congress to begin serving in January 2023.

Candidates seeking to replace Young, who served as Alaska’s lone member of the House of Representatives for 49 years, must file for office by April 1.

Young, the longest-serving member of Congress, died Friday on board a flight between Los Angeles and Seattle as he made his way home. During his long career in Washington, he served stints as chairman of the House Transportation Committee and the House Resources Committee.

He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol next Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday.

Young’s death throws open the biggest free-for-all in Alaska politics in a generation, as candidates from across the political spectrum jockey for a rare chance to move to Washington.

Already, technology executive Nick Begich (R), the grandson of the man Young replaced in Congress half a century ago, has said he will run. Former Dillingham City Manager Gregg Brelsford (R) and Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant (D) have announced campaigns. Al Gross, who ran an independent campaign for U.S. Senate in 2020, will also run.

Tags 2022 midterms Alaska Don Young House race Nancy Pelosi Primary elections Special Election

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