Alaska vote tests Trump’s influence, Palin’s bid for a new electoral system

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ANCHORAGE – Sarah Palin’s bid to join the US House of Representatives, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s efforts to retain her seat in the Senate and Donald Trump’s influence on both races in Alaska will be tested Tuesday in two simultaneous elections in Alaska – as voters cast their ballots under unusual new circumstances.

on one side of the suffrageAlaska will vote in a three-way special general election to fill the remainder of the House term left by Republican Don Young, who was the longest-serving member of the chamber until his untimely death in March. The 45th president endorsed Palin, a former governor and vice presidential candidate, over fellow Republican Nick Begic III and Democrat Mary Biltola. It will be the first election in Alaska to use the ranked-choice system that voters have experienced in 2020.

In a traditional voting system, voters choose only one candidate. Through ranked selection voting, they rank the candidates in order of preference. Here’s how it works. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

The final results will likely not be known for at least two weeks. State election officials say they won’t start counting second options and redistributing votes until the deadline for absentee ballots arrive, and political observers see the race without a runaway candidate.

The other side of the ballot features Murkowski’s Senate primary, where Trump-backed Republican Kelly Chebaka, the former commissioner of the Alaska state government, faces off. Throughout the primary season, Trump has sought to oust Republicans across the country whom he considers hostile. After Murkowski voted against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018, Trump attacked her sharply and predicted its political demise.

Unlike in 2010, when Murkowski lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party candidate and won the general election only after a writing campaign, it is preferable to advance on Tuesday to the general election in November. That’s because of Alaska’s new open primary system, with all 19 candidates appearing in the US Senate in a single nonpartisan ballot, with the top four advancing into the November elections.

Murkowski, Chebaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro, a retired principal and superintendent of schools, are the first to come forward, making the primary with relatively little drama.

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“There’s not much prediction about whether or not Lisa Murkowski will come forward,” Murkowski said in a phone interview Sunday from outside Fairbanks, where she was between a renewable energy show and bathing in a pool at a local hot springs resort. “So, it has a different feel.”

The race to replace Young was more lively.

ballin She surprised many Alaskans by submitting, at the last minute, her first run for election since her failed bid for vice president in 2008, and since her decision to step down as Alaskan governor a year later.

Another 47 are also running for the special primaries in June. They included a gardening columnist for the Anchorage newspaper, a halibut fisherman in southeastern Alaska, and a man legally named Santa Claus – who lives in an arctic city.

Palin, Begic and Biltola advanced to the general election, along with the left-leaning independent Al Gross. But Gross withdrew shortly thereafter, leaving the other three as the only candidates in Tuesday’s ballot.

The three finalists in the special election are also candidates in the House primary in the November general election. This race appears on the same side of the ballot as the Senate primary in Tuesday’s vote. The top four contenders in the White House primaries will advance into November.

With the use of the new rank selection system in special elections, voters determine their highest preferences for candidates. Unless a candidate receives more than half of the first-choice vote—in which case that candidate will win outright—state election officials remove the third-place winner from the competition. Then the second choices of their electors are passed on to the remaining candidates.

While there have been scant polls about the race, state strategists say they expect first-choice votes to go to Biltola, a former state lawmaker who will be the first Alaskan Native member of the state’s congressional delegation. They said that while Alaska leans toward the Republican Party, Begic and Palin are likely to split in conservative votes.

Palin, who has pushed her “energy independence” campaign and launched attacks on President Biden, marched with Trump in crowded Anchorage Square last month. Since then, it has not announced any public events in Alaska and has announced endorsements from conservative national figures such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Palin spoke earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, attacking the FBI’s search for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club last week.

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Palin campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment. Begic was quick to highlight her absence from the events in Alaska.

Begic, nephew of former Democratic US Senator Mark Begich and grandson of Nick Begic, a Democrat who held Alaska’s seat in Congress until his plane was lost in 1972.

Meanwhile, Palin has made her own take on Begitch, which worries some conservatives: Analysts say a negative campaign from the Republicans risks costing both second-choice votes, raising the prospect of Biltola’s election.

“You want them to view their second choice as someone they can live with. You can’t turn their second choice into someone they never voted for,” Sarah Erkman Ward, an Anchorage Republican Party strategist, said, adding that if Biltola won the special election, “it would be for Republicans.” A collective moment when they need to re-evaluate their strategy.”

Meanwhile, Peltola’s campaign has focused more on local issues, such as declining salmon yields in some Alaskan rivers, and is promoting her background as a fisheries manager.

She responded to offensive ads linking her to Biden and raising gas prices by joking that residents of her rural southwestern Alaskan area would be happy to pay $5 a gallon, where prices were much higher.

However, Biltola has also stressed her support for abortion rights, and her volunteers have been calling for independents and moderate Republicans—particularly women—in an effort to undermine first and second choice votes.

The Alaskan election is the latest in a series of special US House of Representatives elections held in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify the election. Raw vs. Wadewhich established a constitutional right to abortion. Democratic and Nonpartisan Analysts He said They saw signs of more Democratic optimism about the midterm elections in the special election results. But they acknowledged that Biden and his party still faced great political winds.

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While activists in Alaska across the political spectrum say Biltola has a realistic chance of winning Tuesday’s election, arms of national parties such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have stayed out of the race so far.

Biltola, in a phone interview Sunday, called the decision “strange,” though she said it should tell voters that she’s “a mere ordinary Alaskan” and not a “Washington politician.” Meanwhile, her allies hope Biltola will get more support in the November general election, when she will run for a full two-year term in Congress.

“Understandably, in a year when Democrats were on the defensive, they were wary about investing and learning in more red states,” said John Henry Heikendoorn, a nonpartisan political advisor in Anchorage who works with the Biltola campaign. “But I think it’s very clear to people on the ground that they’re missing out on a huge opportunity if they don’t invest in this race.”

Maddie Mundy, a spokeswoman for the DCCC, said in a statement that ranked-choice voting could create new opportunities for the party. “We are watching this race closely and look forward to seeing the final results of Tuesday’s election,” Mundy said.

If Palin were eliminated, Begic would be expected to rank a close second to the point where he would come from behind to defeat Biltola, said Evan Moore, whose Alaskan-based Survey Research firm has conducted some of the only surveys about the race. But if Bejic, a businessman and software pioneer, takes third place, Moore said, he expects Biltola to win, because many Alaskans have nervous about Palin ranking it as their second choice.

“This will catch up with you when you get to the last two,” Moore said in a phone interview on Sunday.

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