Sarah Palin Vs. Santa Claus, Dozens More In Alaska House Seat Special Election
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One of Sarah Palin‘s opponents in her bid for Alaska‘s sole House seat is jolly personality with massive name recognition and a tradition of handing out largess to future taxpayers.

His name is Santa Claus.

The state is implementing a new voting system in Saturday’s special election to replace longtime Rep. Don Young, who died in March. Palin is the most experienced politician in the 48-person field, but one opponent is a Democrat socialist from the (real) city of North Pole who legally changed his name to Santa Claus.

“I’m happy to announce that I’m a Candidate in the Special Election for the U.S. House of Representatives for Alaska in 2022!” Claus says on his Twitter page. “I’m an independent, progressive, democratic socialist, with an affinity for Bernie Sanders, and aim to represent ALL Alaskans :-)}”

The race is the first since the state switched to nonpartisan primaries and ranked-choice voting. The changes followed a 2020 ballot measure. The system 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 in today’s primary, 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 supporters’ second, third and fourth choices are reacts. The elimination process continues until there is a winner.

Palin, the former governor and the 2008 running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is considered the front-runner. 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 2009-2015.

Palin has scored endorsements from a slew of Republicans, including former President Donald Trump.

Claus, a city councilman in North Pole who changed his name two decades ago, has a legitimate shot to make the top four, and perhaps even win the seat, pollster Ivan Moore told NBC News.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up snagging the seat for real, through a combination of people who are just being mischievous and wanting to see a situation where Santa Claus wins,” Moore said.

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