Alaska's US House Seat Could Go Either Way
As President Joe Biden, members of Congress and other officials paid their respects Tuesday to the late Rep. Don Young, the race for the at-large U.S. House district he had represented for nearly half a century was shaping up back in Alaska.
Few if any Alaskans are predicting the winner at this point. The race could go either way, several told Newsmax, because the state earned a unique niche in 2020 as the only one of the 50 to use the ''ranked choice'' system to elect officeholders.
Democrats have settled on surgeon Al Gross, an independent who ran with Democratic support against Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and drew 41% of the vote.
Few pundits or pols in the Land of the Midnight Sun believe Sarah Palin will actually become a candidate, despite her telling Newsmax's Grant Stinchfield that she would run ''in a heartbeat'' for Young's open seat.
Sources close to the former governor say she now spends little time in Alaska and has not remained in touch with grassroots activists in the state Republican Party.
''Having learned never to underestimate Sarah, I won't be surprised if she runs,'' former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican, told us. ''But I would not bet on it. She's talked to no one I know about getting a campaign going. Many others have.''
Former state Sen. John Coghill, a conservative and longtime friend of Young, became a candidate days ago. Also eyeing the race are former Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tara Sweeney, a past co-chairman of the Alaskan Federation of Natives, and state Sen. Josh Revak, a former Young staffer.
One Republican already in the race at the time of Young's death was businessman Nick Begich III, grandson and namesake of Young's Democratic predecessor in the House (whose career ended in a still-unsolved disappearance of a plane in 1972).
Although the younger Begich is a conservative Republican, two of his uncles are prominent Democratic figures (former Sen. Mike Begich and state Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich).
There was some criticism heard among Young supporters that, in challenging Young for renomination, the younger Begich was unexpectedly mean to the venerable incumbent.
Under the new rules, voters in the special primary June 11 will choose four candidates from major or minor parties to compete in the special election Aug. 16 (the same day as the primary for the general election).
''Ranked choice'' means that the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes among the four contenders is eliminated and his or her votes given to their second choices. The process of eliminating and reassigning continues until one of the four has a majority.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.