I have all the relevant Alaskan state law statutes in front of me so let me run down the scenarios for you.
If Ted Stevens loses, Democrat Mark Begich becomes Alaska's new senator. Palin can challenge Lisa Murkowski for her seat in 2010. (This would be fitting since Palin unseated Murkowski's father. It would be interesting to watch Palin go after the daughter, too.)
Ted Stevens wins and then the Senate refuses to seat him. Or, Stevens does the right thing and resigns.
If this happens and Palin wanted to get his seat she would be best off temporarily appointing someone else and running for the seat straight up in a special election. This is because Alaskan law requires a special election and while Palin may be able to temporarily appoint herself the laws on this are too new and confusing to mess with.
Regardless of whether she runs or not, Palin would need to call for a special election between 60 and 90 days AFTER the vacancy occurs.
Now, about the temporary appointment. It's complicated. Alaskans passed a ballot measure in 2004 that said the Govenor is allowed to call for a special election, but NOT make a temporary appointment.
The Alaskan state legislature passed something on this in 2004 as well. And, it's at odds with what the voters did. The legislature passed a measure that says "When a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator, the governor may, at least five days after the date of the vacancy but within 30 days after the date of the vacancy, appoint a qualified individual to fill the vacancy temporarily until the results of the special election called to fill the vacancy are certified."
You got that? The ballot initiative says she can't do it, but the legislature says she can. No one knows which measure would win in the end because it's never been tested.
But, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for her to appoint herself at all. That would be a touch "diva." Appointing the place holder and then running honestly would be much better and, I'm guessing, more Palin's style.
I was on a conference call with conservative activists this afternoon and a leader from Alaska said, "If she runs, she wins."