The Alaska vote will test Trump’s influence, Palin’s bid and a new voting system

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ANCHORAGE — Sarah Palin’s bid to join the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s efforts to retain her Senate seat and Donald Trump’s racial influence will be tested in two simultaneous elections in Alaska on Tuesday — with voters falling under tune to unusual new conditions.

On the one hand the ballot, Alaskans will vote in a three-way special election to fill the remainder of the House term left open by Republican Don Young, who was the longest-serving member of the chamber until his sudden death in March. The 45th President has endorsed Palin, a former governor and vice presidential nominee, over fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The election will be the first in Alaska to use a ranking system, which voters adopted in 2020.

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

Final results are expected to be determined in at least two weeks. State election officials say they won’t begin counting the second election and redistributing votes until the deadline for absentee ballots to arrive, and political observers see a race without a runaway candidate.

On the other side of the ballot is Murkowski’s Senate primary, where she faces Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former departmental commissioner in Alaska’s state government. Throughout the primary season, Trump has sought to oust Republicans across the country he perceives as hostile to him. After Murkowski voted against the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, Trump attacked her sharply and predicted their political downfall.

Unlike in 2010, when Murkowski lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party candidate and won the general election only after a campaign, she is preferred to advance to Tuesday’s November general election. That’s because of Alaska’s new open primary system, where all 19 candidates for the US Senate appear on a single, bipartisan ballot, with the top four advancing to the November vote.

Murkowski, Tshibaka and Democratic Party-backed Pat Chesbro, a retired principal and principal, are considered frontrunners in promotion, which has resulted in an elementary school with relatively little drama.

“There’s not much anticipation as to whether or not Lisa Murkowski is going to get ahead,” Murkowski said in a phone interview Sunday outside of Fairbanks, where she was between a renewable energy fair and a dip in a pool at a local spa. “So it has a different feel.”

The race to replace Young was livelier.

Palin surprised many Alaskans by running her first last-minute election since running for vice president in 2008 and deciding to step down as governor of Alaska a year later.

Forty-seven others also submitted to run in the June special primary. They included the gardening columnist for the Anchorage newspaper, a halibut fisherman from southeast Alaska, and a man named Santa Claus who lives in the town of North Pole.

Palin, Begich, and Peltola progressive to the general election, along with left-leaning independent Al Gross. But Gross dropped out shortly thereafter, leaving the other three as the only candidates in Tuesday’s vote.

The three finalists in the special election are also candidates in the House of Representatives primary for November’s general election. This race appears on the same side of the ballot as the Senate primary in Tuesday’s vote. The top four finishers in the pick-one house primary will advance into November.

With the new ranking choice system used in the special election, voters indicate their top preferences for candidates. Unless a candidate receives more than half of the first choice votes – in which case that candidate would win outright – state election officials will remove the third-place candidate from the contest. The second choice of their electors would then be carried over to the two remaining candidates.

While polls on the race have been scant, strategists in the state say they expect most of the first-choice votes to go to Peltola, a former state legislator who will be the first member of the state’s congressional delegation from Alaska. While Alaska leans toward Republicans, Begich and Palin will likely split the conservative vote, they said.

Palin, whose campaign has pushed “energy independence” and attacked President Biden, held a rally with Trump in a crowded arena in Anchorage last month. Since then, she has not announced any public events in Alaska and touted support from national conservative figures such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Palin spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas earlier this month and she blasted the FBI’s search for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club last week.

Palin campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment. Begich was quick to emphasize her absence from Alaskan events.

“Her track record is really about standing up for herself — not for the state, not for the people around her, but really about building her personal brand,” said Begich, a nephew of Democratic former US Senator Mark Begich and a grandson of Nick Begich, a Democrat who held Alaska’s seat in Congress until his plane disappeared in 1972.

Palin, meanwhile, has fired her own shot at Begich, worrying some conservatives: The two Republicans’ negative campaign risks costing each other second-choice votes, analysts say, making Peltola more likely to be elected.

“They want them to think of their second choice as someone they can live with. You can’t turn the second choice into someone they would never vote for,” said Sarah Erkmann Ward, an Anchorage-based GOP strategist. If Peltola wins the special election, she added, “Republicans will have a collective moment where they will have to reconsider their strategy.”

Peltola’s campaign, meanwhile, has focused more on local issues, such as B. the decline in salmon yields in some Alaskan rivers, and she touts her background as a fisheries manager.

Responding to attack ads linking her to Biden, she hiked gas prices, joking that residents of her rural southwest Alaskan home region would be pleased to pay $5 a gallon since prices there were substantially higher.

However, Peltola has also stressed her support for abortion rights, and her volunteers have called out independents and moderate Republicans — particularly women — to haul first- and second-choice votes.

The Alaskan election is the latest in a series of special elections to the US House of Representatives held in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overthrow decision Roe v. calf, which established a constitutional right to abortion. Democrats and bipartisan analysts have said You’ve seen signs of more democratic optimism about the midterms in the results of the special elections. However, they acknowledged that Biden and his party continue to face significant political headwinds.

While Alaska-based activists across the political spectrum say Peltola has a realistic chance of winning Tuesday’s election, national party arms like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have so far stayed out of the running.

Peltola called that decision “bizarre” in a phone interview Sunday, though she said she should tell voters she’s “just a regular Alaskan” and not a “DC politician.” Her allies, meanwhile, are hoping Peltola would gain more support in November’s general election if she were to run for a full two-year term in Congress.

“It’s understandable that in a year when Democrats have been on the defensive, Democrats have been wary of investing and learning in more red states,” said John-Henry Heckendorn, a nonpartisan Anchorage-based political adviser who is with Peltola’s campaign collaborates. “But I think it’s very clear to the local people that if they don’t invest in this race they’re missing out on a huge opportunity.”

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

If Palin is eliminated, enough of their constituents are expected to put Begich in second place for him to come from behind to beat Peltola, said Ivan Moore, whose company Alaska Survey Research conducted some of the only polls on the race. But if Begich, a businessman and software entrepreneur, takes third place, Moore expects Peltola to win because too many Alaskans are mad at Palin to rank her as their second choice.

“That’s going to catch up to you when you get into the last two,” Moore said in a phone interview Sunday.