According to the Associated Press, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has secured one of four spots in the race for a seat in the US House, making it likely that she will be on the ballot in the general election this coming November.
Palin, who gained notoriety over a decade ago as John McCain’s running mate, and her two opponents, tech millionaire Nick Begich III (supported by the Alaska Republican Party) and former state legislator and Democrat Mary Peltola (supported by the Alaska Democratic Party), made it to the general election. The race for fourth place couldn’t be decided just yet.
Palin, Peltola, and Begich are vying to replace Don Young, who passed away in March, as Alaska’s sole representative in the House of Representatives. The three candidates were also vying for a spot in a special election to finish out Young’s term, which will end in the first quarter of 2019.
In Alaska’s special election, voters will use a ranked voting system for the first time, and tallying the votes could take several days.
After winning election to represent his state in Congress for the first time in 1973, Young remained there for nearly 50 years, making him the longest-serving Republican congressman in history.
Palin, 58, first came to prominence as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 elections, when she branded herself a “mama grizzly” and established a persona as a loose-lipped loose cannon. In many ways, Palin paved the way for Trump, an early endorser of whom she was, with her attacks on the media, her racist rabble-rousing, and her eschewing of policy or traditional politics in favor of demagoguery.
After the 2008 election, Palin resigned as governor of Alaska and took a lengthy break from politics in the wake of multiple ethics scandals. This year, she made a comeback, making appearances at Trump rallies and fundraisers while largely avoiding regular campaign activities and candidate debates in her home state.
Alaska held a non-partisan primary election in which the top four vote-getters will go on to the general election in November. Incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski faced 18 challengers, including Trump-backed Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.
Even in the “last frontier” of Alaska, where most voters have not declared a party affiliation, the Congress and Senate races will provide insights into the power Trump still commands over voters.
Even though many voters believed she had abandoned Alaska after she resigned as governor, Palin remained the most well-known candidate because she was one of the most well-known Alaskans. After leaving politics, she entered the world of reality television, where she has appeared on shows like Sarah’s Alaska and The Masked Singer, where she sang Baby’s Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot while dressed as a pink and blue bear.
Kari Jones, 47, who has lived in Alaska for the past five years after following her military husband’s posting, said, “I knew who Sarah was before I became an Alaskan.” But Jones claimed that her husband supported Begich over the former governor in part because she had been less accessible to the public. Jones acknowledged that this caused her to lose support among some voters.
“I’m looking for candidates that show they’re really dedicated to the state, not just during election time,” said Aundra Jackson, 60, while fishing for coho salmon in Anchorage.
When Palin first became governor, almost 15 years ago, she was a fiery newcomer who defeated an entrenched politician: Lisa Murkowski’s father, Frank Murkowski. According to pollster Ivan Moore of Anchorage, Palin’s approval rating was well over 90% at its highest point at the time. She gained early praise for her ability to work across the aisle by forming a climate change cabinet and challenging the oil and gas industry, but later she shifted to the political right.
If you’re looking for an attractive and charismatic candidate, Jackson believes Palin is your best bet. But when I direct questions at her, all I get are soundbites. It just seems odd to me that she has so much success.
Many prominent Republicans in the state backed Begich, who had portrayed Palin as absent and vacuous in the final days leading up to the election.
The Democratic candidate, Peltola, has portrayed herself as a cooperative moderate who can work with both liberals and conservatives. In an interview with the Guardian before the election, she said, “I’m not interested in speaking ill of Sarah, she has her supporters, and I respect her and her supporters.”
It was the first time in the state’s history that voters were given the option of ranking their top three candidates in a single election in Tuesday’s congressional election. For primaries for the Senate and the House of Representatives, voters can select their preferred candidate from a longer list. The top four vote-getters in each race will move on to the November ballot.
Reporting from the AP was included.
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