The results of the Alaska special general election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Don Young’s term remain uncertain, as CNN projected none of the candidates on the ballot topped 50% on Tuesday – a necessary feat given the state’s new ranked choice voting rules.
The special general election, which was triggered by Young’s death, marks the first time that Alaska is using ranked choice voting – a process that asks voters to rank their preferred candidates, with the votes for the lowest-finishing candidates coming into play only if no one tops 50%. CNN projected that no candidate crossed that threshold, which means it will be a while until the winner is determined, with the ranked choice voting tabulation scheduled to begin on August 31 – the deadline for overseas ballots to arrive.
The race to determine who will fill the remainder of Young’s term pits former Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who has not appeared on a ballot since that election loss, against Nick Begich III, who won the Alaska Republican Party’s endorsement in April and is the product of a powerful Democratic Alaska political family, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola.
All three candidates and independent Al Gross advanced to the August special general election after a June nonpartisan special primary, but Gross withdrew from the race and encouraged his supporters to back Peltola.
Palin’s attempt at a political comeback comes 13 years after she resigned the Alaska governor’s office in 2009 during her only term. Since then, she has been a conservative media figure and has endorsed and campaigned with various Republican candidates, but she has been largely detached from Alaska politics.
Though Palin was the best-known candidate in the race by far and had the backing of former President Donald Trump, who carried Alaska by 10 points in 2020, rival candidates and political observers in the state previously said the ranked choice voting process could hurt her chances in the special general election. She also faced opposition from voters still angry that she quit the governor’s office.
No matter who wins the special general election to fill the remainder of Young’s term, there will be a regular general election, which will also use ranked choice voting, in November to determine who will hold the seat in the next Congress.
Palin, Begich and Peltola were also among the candidates on the ballot for the primary election on Tuesday. All three will advance to the November election, CNN projected, with a fourth candidate to be determined.
In the Senate race, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Patricia Chesbro will advance to the November election, CNN projects, against a fourth candidate to be determined. Murkowski became a target of the former President after she voted to convict him in his impeachment trial in January 2021.