Voters in Alaska will pick from a huge list of candidates in a special election on Saturday to fill the seat of the late Republican, who represented Alaska from 1973 until his death earlier this year at the age of 88.
Former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is among the 48 candidates running in the open primary. Palin, Republican businessman Nick Begich III and independent fisherman and doctor Al Gross, who ran for Senate in 2020, are seen as the most likely to make it to the next round.
A May poll by Alaska Survey Research had Palin, Begich and Gross in the top three. Santa Claus, a Democratic socialist and current mayor pro tem of North Pole, Alaska, came in fourth in the poll.
Former President Donald Trumpwithin days of her campaign launch and held a tele-rally for her earlier this month. In a radio ad, Palin says she's "in this for the long haul. I'm not here to climb some political ladder, the way that career politicians do. I'm going to see this thing through and earn your support."
Begich III worked for Young's 2020 campaign and the state Republican party. He leads the field in fundraising, with $1.18 million raised and more than $716,000 cash on hand. He is also the grandson of the late Congressman Nick Begich, a Democrat who represented Alaska until his presumed death in a plane crash in 1972.
Gross ran as an independent in his unsuccessful 2020 race against Republican Dan Sullivan, but was backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has leaned into his independent label for this race. After a leak of the draft opinion on Roe v. Wade from the U.S. Supreme Court, Gross criticized both parties.
"The Democrats had 50 years to codify Roe v. Wade into law and instead used the decision as a political tool to get votes for candidates who rarely deliver on the promises they make to us," Gross wrote. He said if elected, he will caucus with whatever party is in the majority, according to an interview with the Anchorage Daily News.
Other candidates include Democratic State Representative Adam Wool and former State Representative Mary Peltola. Republican State Senator Josh Revak, a former campaign co-chair for Young who is backed by Young's widow, is also running.
Due to a ballot reform passed in 2020, the state is using a new system for the primaries. The top four vote-getters in the primary will move on to a special general election on August 16. The full list of those candidates may not be known until June 21, the last day for ballots to be received. Alaska's Division of Elections must certify the results on June 25.
Alaska mailed ballots to all registered voters in late April, though in person voting was still made available.
Alaska's new ranked-choice voting system will be put to the test for the special election on August 16, the same day as the state's regular primaries. On that day, voters rank candidates from first to fourth for the special election. A candidate who breaks 50% in that first round would win. If no one wins half the votes, the count continues and candidates with the least votes are eliminated until there are only two remaining.
The candidate with the most votes at that point will win the seat.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said that Rep. Don Young died in a plane crash. According to the Anchorage Daily News, he lost consciousness while on a flight and died later. The article has been updated.
for more features.