Friday was the filing deadline for the Alaska special election to fill Don Young's seat. The big news yesterday was that, as expected, Sarah Palin-- claiming Trump's mantle-- filed... and so did 50 other people. The 51 candidates will compete in a jungle primary (all mail-in) on June 11. The 4 with the most votes (regardless of party) then go on to a ranked-choice runoff on August 16. The winner of that goes directly to Congress... in time to compete in the November general election as an incumbent.
The Anchorage Daily News noted that "The number of candidates is more than twice as large as that seen in any other primary in the state’s history, and greater than the number of mushers who ran this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race."
Aside from Palin, who everyone expects will make it into the runoff, the best known candidates are Sen. Josh Revak (R), former state Sen. John Coghill (R), Trumpist Interior Department official Tara Sweeney (R), independent 2020 Senate candidate Al Gross, state Rep Adam Wool (D), state Rep Christopher Constant (D), former Republican state Rep Andrew Halcro (I), former state Rep Mary Sattler Peltola (D), Alaska Native leader Emil Notti (D), Nick Begich III (R), gardening columnist Jeff Lowenfels (D) and Santa Claus (I), a Democratic Socialist city councilman from North Pole. [Worth noting: in the 2016 presidential caucus, Bernie beat Hillary 81.6% to 18.4%.]
The ADN reported that "The list of candidates who had already announced runs before Young’s death includes Republican businessman Nick Begich III, the grandson of Nick Begich Sr., who was elected to Alaska’s lone congressional seat in 1970 but disappeared during a 1972 flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Begich Sr. was replaced by Young in 1973." Begich III, despite his illustrious heritage is a neo-fascist kook who was primarying Young from the right.
The race also includes some candidates who don’t even live in Alaska. Two men from California and one from Montana are among the candidates. The U.S. Constitution, which sets the requirements for serving in the House, requires that elected members of the House live in the state they represent, but it does not require candidates to do so.
With a candidate list so long, politicos across the state were struggling to capture the uniqueness of the race ahead. The election will be Alaska’s first after voters in 2020 adopted a citizens initiative under which the outcome of statewide races will be decided through ranked-choice voting — but first, all candidates run against each other in a nonpartisan primary. Only the top four vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election.
“I believe we might be looking for the superlative: wildest. The most wild,” said Joelle Hall, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO and its former political director.
Hall speculated that with so many candidates in the race, it will be almost impossible to predict how many votes will be needed to advance from the primary to the general election. That’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s a by-mail election. With no way to tell how many votes they’ll need to finish in the top four, candidates will find it difficult to set a strategy, she said.
The huge number of candidates combined with the brief 2.5-month window for campaigning make the primary something of a popularity contest, said Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.
Candidates who have entered the race with leftover cash from other campaigns, or who have their own money to spend, will have a leg up on those who need to raise money from donors, who could be reticent to participate in such a chaotic race, Begich said.
It’s also possible that a candidate with a strong base in a particular region-- rural Alaska, say, or Fairbanks-- could win enough votes to propel them into the general election, he added.
...The special general election is on the same date as the primary for a full term in office, and one or more candidates could appear in both the special general and the regular primary. The four winners of that primary will advance to a ranked-choice vote during the November general election.