ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Unofficial polling results in Alaska’s June 11 special primary placed former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, both Republicans, among the top four vote-getters in Alaska’s June 11 special primary.
As of 10:51 a.m. ET on Sunday, with roughly 72 percent of the votes counted, Palin had garnered 29.8 percent and Begich received 19.3 percent of the votes, according to Decision Desk HQ.
With votes still being counted, Palin and Begich are projected to advance to the general election, while two more slots remain to be determined.
State election officials said the 2022 special primary election was a first in many ways.
It was the first election to use the new nonpartisan top four primary election system voted into law in 2020.
Under the new system, all 48 primary candidates appeared on the same page of the ballot, regardless of party affiliation, to ensure fairness and visibility.
Voters were allowed to vote for only one candidate. The top four vote-getters will advance to the special general election, held on the same day as the state’s regular primary election, on Aug. 16.
“This is Alaska’s first statewide by mail election. With 48 candidates, this election has more candidates than any other election to date,” the division stated.
“The Special General election and the regular Primary Election will be administered in the traditional manner with polling places open on election day, early voting, absentee by-mail voting, and absentee in-person voting.”
“Unlike the special primary election, voters must apply for an absentee ballot for the special general and regular primary elections. The special general election will utilize ranked choice voting and will be the first election in Alaska to do so.”
Saturday’s special primary is only the second special election to fill an office vacancy in the state’s history. The position expires in January 2023.
The first special election was in 1973 to fill Alaska’s sole U.S. House seat and was won by the late Congressman Don Young, who served 49 years until his death on March 18, triggering the special election.
Young, 88, was Alaska’s longest-serving member of Congress.
State election officials said all efforts were to ensure a fair and accurate election, given the primary’s reliance on mail-in voting.
However, state law does not prohibit collecting and returning absentee ballots, also known as “ballot harvesting,” said Tiffany Montemayor, the election division’s public relations manager.
“It is illegal to vote twice or on behalf of someone else, and the division refers all potentially fraudulent activity to law enforcement,” Montemayor told The Epoch Times.
The special primary also presented several challenges for election officials, including the candidates.
Montemayor said the division had only days to set up the election, using the mail-in system given the time constraints.
Candidates, regardless of party, had about two weeks to decide if they would run or not and file by the April 1 deadline.
Each candidate had to establish a social media presence to bridge the vast distances separating Alaska’s voter precincts.
As the nation’s largest state, Alaska spans 665,400 square miles and has a total population is around 774,000.
Then there was the more daunting challenge of soliciting campaign financing on short notice.
“It isn’t difficult to get a campaign going. It is difficult, however, to raise money in such a huge field of candidates,” nonpartisan candidate Jeff Lowenfels told The Epoch Times.
At the 2022 Fields of Fun celebration in Palmer, Alaska, on June 11, Leslie Wright had just finished watching the gala parade with a guest appearance by Palin, her choice to replace Young.
Wearing a “Sarah for Alaska” sticker on her white hoodie, Wright said she voted for Palin, endorsed by Donald Trump, because she is the “biggest dog in the fight.”
“She was good as governor. She’s everything that America needs. We’re in dire need right now. Hopefully, she can patch a sinking ship,” Wright told The Epoch Times.
Wright, a Republican, said she feels Palin also is the toughest candidate compared to her closest Republican rival, Nick Begich, recently endorsed by Alaska’s Republican Party.
“I know that he voted for two Democrats in the past, and that just draws a red flag for me.”
As for Young, he was a “rock star,” Wright said. “I think Sarah Palin is the only rock star who can fill his shoes.”
Sitting comfortably away from the bustling fairgrounds, Michael Post, an Independent, voted early in person for Begich.
“I think he is the one that mostly meets my views on things. Sarah is a nice person. I have met her a few times, but I haven’t seen any evidence that she’s all that serious about this [election],” Post told The Epoch Times.
“When you see the advertisements, and Nick getting out—he’s put a lot more into it.”
Post said his “biggest fault” with Palin was that she resigned as governor in 2009 while battling ethics investigations that she described as “frivolous.”
“Is she going to stay in there for us [if she wins Young’s congressional seat]?” Post asked.
“This is a six-year term, so I think Nick’s a bit younger and more enthusiastic. I think he will look out for Alaska’s best interests without being overboard. I don’t like to see pork come back to this state more than any other state. Most of us are of the same mind: we’d like to see a government that works.”
Post said his hope is that if Begich wins the primary, and the general election, he’ll work with Congress to “bring this country back to a more conservative bent in fiscal responsibility.”
Daniel, a Republican, who asked that his last name not be used, also voted for Begich, and gave him credit for declaring himself a candidate in October 2021 prior to Young’s passing.
“I was disappointed nobody [else] got in the race before he died. I thought, ‘Was that just an excuse for everybody to jump in?’ If you are bold enough to run for representative, get in there,” Daniel told The Epoch Times.
“One of the things that appealed to me about Begich is he was already in there. There are a lot of issues—moral issues” to resolve in Congress, Daniel said.
Nancy Brunett, an Independent, said she voted for Begich, sensing a potential runoff in the election.
“It was a little confusing,” Brunett said of the new non-partisan electoral system. “I feel like it’s just a primary at this point. The actual race will start once the candidates are selected. The issues will pan out.”
Regarding Palin, Brunett was blunt.
“I would rather that she not be elected,” she said.
A woman working in downtown Anchorage said of all 48 candidates on the ballot only Santa Claus, a progressive socialist candidate from the North Pole, Alaska, resonated with her.
“Actually, for the special election, I voted for Santa Claus because he’s only going to be in office for two weeks,” the woman told The Epoch Times while requesting anonymity.
“If it were the real office for two years, I’d have more thoughts on it.”
At Judy’s Cafe, next door to Sarah Palin’s campaign headquarters in Anchorage, a man having breakfast told The Epoch Times he usually votes for “whoever is best but leans Republican”—but in this election, he voted as an Independent for Begich.
“I mean, yeah, I liked [Palin as governor]. She was going to change things. I liked that a little bit. Then she quit, and the other fiasco—I’m not in favor of her anymore.
While he also likes Begich because he’s a Republican, he isn’t sure any serious issues are driving this race.
“It doesn’t matter at this point. You need four people” to advance to the general election. “The next one is probably going to get more heated up. We’ll be listening to that pretty soon.”
“I think people are at the point where what does it matter? The sad part is our elections are so bad Mickey Mouse could probably win the presidency. It’s such a sham.”
From The Epoch Times