Former Governor Sarah Palin, Santa Claus (yes, that's his legal name), and 46 other candidates from a smattering of parties kicked off their competition to replace Don Young as the U.S. House Representative from Alaska's at-large congressional district on Saturday after Rep. Young passed away in March.
The special U.S. House primary is the first time The Last Frontier has used its new top-four primary system in which all candidates — in this case a whopping 48 people — appear on one ballot with the top four vote getters moving on to the general election, regardless of party, with the ultimate victor declared based on ranked-choice voting.
While Saturday is the date set for the special primary, the four winning primary candidates competing in the special general election — taking place on August 16 — won't be fully determined on primary night. As the Alaska Division of Elections explains, ballots must either be postmarked by June 11 or physically received. The first ballot count will take place on primary day, June 11, followed by a second count on June 15 and a third count on June 17. The deadline for absentee ballots to arrive is June 21, the date on which the final ballot count will take place before the planned certification date of June 25.
The highest-profile candidate in the race to succeed Rep. Young is Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and John McCain's Vice Presidential nominee in 2008. After staying on the political sidelines for more than a decade while writing and providing commentary on the changing political landscape, she's back in the fray and looking to return to politics with a ticket to the House of Representatives.
Within Alaska, there are other political notables running, including Republican Nick Begich III, whose grandfather Nick Begich Sr. — a Democrat — was Alaska's representative to Congress until 1972 when a plane he was on with three others — including House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) — disappeared into the wilderness on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau, never to be found. A special election to fill the seat was held following the disappearance, with candidates including the late Don Young. He prevailed and went on to become the longest-serving Republican member of the House until his death this year, precipitating another special election in which the grandson of the man Young replaced is now running to serve out the remainder of Young’s final term.
Another frontrunner in the special primary is Democrat fisherman and physician Al Gross, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 and who is now running as an independent for the U.S. House and has not committed to either Democrats or Republicans when it comes to which party he'd caucus with if elected.
While not a frontrunner apart from the likely 100 percent name recognition, Santa Claus — who currently serves on the city council of North Pole, Alaska — could end up landing votes based on his namesake's legendary role as gift-giver to the world. Somewhat ironically, Claus calls himself a "progressive democratic socialist," so he would likely excel at redistributing gifts and using an authoritarian method of deciding who gets coal instead.
So while the final top four finishers won't be known for a few weeks, the totals below will be updated as ballots are counted: