Tag Archives: Rep. Nick Begich

Sarah Palin to Run for House

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, is now running for the open at-large US House seat in The Last Frontier state.

By Jim Ellis

April 5, 2022 — Former Republican vice presidential nominee and ex-Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, filed at Friday’s candidate declaration deadline to enter the special election being held June 11 to replace the late at-large congressman, Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

Along with Palin, 17 others also filed. The state officials will release the qualified list at some point this week. Of the preliminary group, nine are Republican, eight are Independent or from minor parties, and just one, local Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant, is a Democrat.

The June 11 special primary will be interesting since it is the first test of Alaska’s new electoral system that places everyone together on a jungle ballot and sends the top four, regardless of party preference, to the special general election. The special primary will be conducted through the mail.

The special general will be run concurrently with the Alaska regular primary election on Aug. 16. Therefore, those casting ballots will both choose a special election winner and nominees for the regular election at the same time, but in two separate votes.

Should no one from the top four reach the 50 percent threshold in the special general election, then the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system is utilized to choose a winner. The voters rank their choices one to four. Without anyone getting majority support, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and those ballots ranking that candidate first are located, and their second choices are added to the candidate totals. This process continues in rounds until one of the candidates obtains majority support. At that point, said candidate is awarded the seat and will serve the balance of the current term.

The filing deadline for the regular primary is June 1, and those running in the special, including Palin, may or may not file for the regular term. At this point, all are expected to do so.

In addition to Palin, some of the key candidates include Dr. Al Gross, who was the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2020 and raised and spent almost $20 million in his unsuccessful challenge of Sen. Dan Sullivan (R). In this special election, Dr. Gross is running as an Independent.

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Alaska Rep. Young’s Passing Yields Chaotic Special Election Process

By Jim Ellis

Alaska’s At-Large Congressman, the late Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon)

March 22, 2022 — On Friday, the Dean of the House of Representatives, Alaska’s At-Large Congressman Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), passed away in an airplane flying back to his home state. The congressman, who was first elected in a 1973 special election, served in the House for 49 consecutive years, or just 14 years less than the time Alaska has been a state.

The congressman’s full and colorful national political career even began in an unusual way. As a sitting state legislator, he ran for Congress in 1972, opposite at-large Rep. Nick Begich (D). Less than a month before the election, however, Rep. Begich and then House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) went down in a plane crash on a tour through the Last Frontier. With Boggs legally declared as missing, though it was imminently clear that all perished in the crash, he still defeated Young in the 1972 regular election.

Upon certification of Rep. Begich’s death, Don Young then won the succeeding special election in early 1973. He would never lose again. Coming full circle, Rep. Young’s 2022 opponent would likely have been Nick Begich III (D), the late congressman’s grandson.

While best wishes and remembrances for and about the congressional icon are coming from throughout the country, a potentially chaotic replacement process lies before the state’s governor to direct, and then for those who choose to become candidates.

Under Alaska law, a special election must be conducted to fill an electoral vacancy no less than 60 and no more than 90 days after the position is officially vacated. In this case, Young passed away on March 18. Therefore, at least the initial election must occur during the period between May 17 and June 16.

Because the state is changing its election procedure, much is unclear. An Alaska Department of Law spokesperson stated in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News that the agency personnel will review the applying statutes and prepare an advisory report for Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R).

In 2020, Alaska voters passed an initiative to change the state’s primary system. Thus, the state will now use a jungle primary format. Three other states, California, Louisiana, and Washington have jungle primaries, but in all of those places the top two finishers advance into the general election or post-election runoff. Louisiana holds its jungle primary concurrently with the regular general election so that a leading candidate with a percentage greater than 50 is elected outright.

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A Trio of Political Icons Pass

It’s said that famous people die in threes, and that certainly happened again this week in the world of politics. Rather extraordinarily, the youngest of the trio was 96 years of age.

Former Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I), who served from 1965 to 1983) passed away on Tuesday at the age of 98.

Ex-Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-LA-2), who succeeded her late husband in Congress back in 1973 and served nine terms, passed away from natural causes at the beginning of the week. She was 97.

And William Scranton, the former Pennsylvania Republican governor and congressman who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, also died this week in California at the age of 96.

Sen. Byrd was appointed to his seat, succeeding his father, who was forced to resign in 1965 due to health issues. He then died in 1966 of brain cancer. The younger Sen. Byrd went into the Senate as a Democrat, but his conservative philosophy on fiscal issues led him to leave the party in 1970 to become an Independent. Until his death this week, Byrd was the oldest living former senator.

Boggs succeeded her husband, Hale Boggs, who was the House Majority Leader. He died in a plane crash over a remote area of Alaska, flying with his Democratic colleague Rep. Nick Begich. The late Begich was the father of current US Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). After retiring from the House, President Clinton appointed the former congresswoman as the US Ambassador to the Holy See, a position she would hold from 1997-2001.

Like the other two luminaries who passed, Scranton was from a political family. His grandfather, Joe Scranton, served five non-consecutive terms in Congress. Scranton’s son, William W. Scranton III, later became Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor.