Former Alaska Republican governor and one-time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin blew away a crowded field that included Santa Claus Saturday in the critical first round of a special election to fill the state’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
With 54.4% of the vote in, Palin had 32,371 votes to just over 20,000 for second-place finisher Nick Begich, brother of former Alaska senator Mark Begich and the favorite of the state’s GOP establishment. The field included 48 candidates vying to replace Rep. Don Young, who died in March. Palin, Begich, surgeon Al Gross, and one other candidate, likely Mary Pelota, will advance to the next round of the state’s first-ever ranked choice, non-partisan primary.
“Thank you Alaska!” Palin tweeted late Saturday after securing the first-place finish.
Thank you Alaska! ❤️🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/wlMSaOneqS
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) June 12, 2022
The new voting system, which followed a 2020 ballot measure, was supposed to debut in the regular primary in August, but the death of Young, who had held the state’s sole House seat since 1973, sped up the timetable.
Voters cast ballots for single candidates, then the top four finishers advance to the general election, in which voters pick four in order of preference. If a candidate tops 50%, he or she wins. If no one gets a majority, the last-place finisher drops out, and his or her second, third, and fourth choices are distributed among the candidates who advance. The elimination process continues until there is a winner.
“I’m looking forward to the special general election so we can highlight our ideas for fixing this country by responsibly developing Alaska’s God-given natural resources, getting runaway government spending under control, protecting human life, protecting the right to keep and bear arms, and restoring respect for individual liberty and the Constitution,” Palin said.
One opponent who did not make the top four was Claus, a city councilman, avowed socialist, and supporter of Bernie Sanders from the city of North Pole.
Palin, the former governor and the 2008 running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is considered among the front-runners. Others include Nick Begich, a Republican whose grandfather held the seat before Young, and Al Gross, a surgeon who ran for Senate in 2020.
Begich is the state GOP’s choice. His grandfather died in the same 1972 plane crash that killed then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs. His brother Mark was a U.S. senator from 2009 to 2015.
Palin has scored endorsements from a slew of Republicans, including former President Donald Trump.