Palin Shakes Up Race to Fill Alaska’s Only House Seat
JUNEAU, Alaska — Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee became persistent comic fodder for a bevy of late night hosts and particularly, Tina Fey, then of “Saturday Night Live,” shocked the world on Friday by announcing she’s coming back to electoral politics.
She did so by filing the necessary paperwork at the state Division of Elections office in Wasilla, Alaska.
With her filing, Palin joined an already overstuffed field of 50 other candidates in the race for Alaska’s sole House seat, a post held for decades by the late Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who died last month.
“Today I’m announcing my candidacy for the U.S. House seat representing Alaska,” Palin said in a tweet accompanied by a picture of her outside the elections office. “Public service is a calling, and I would be honored to represent the men and women of Alaska in Congress, just as Young did for 49 years.”
Young, a Republican, had held Alaska’s House seat since 1973 and was seeking reelection at the time of his death last month at age 88.
On Sunday, Palin received her first high profile endorsement, garnering the support of former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
“Excited to see Sarah Palin get back into the fight to take our country back. We need her voice in Congress!” Haley said in a tweet.
Palin was elected Alaska’s ninth and first female governor in 2006, after defeating Alaska’s incumbent Republican governor and long-time U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, the father of Alaska’s current Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Then, as she’s hoping to now, Palin proved victorious after entering a crowded primary field.
Prior to her run as governor, Palin served as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Earlier still, she was a city councilwoman for her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska.
In a lengthier statement on her candidacy, she said she was “offering myself up” in the name of service to the state Young loved and, “Because I share that passion for Alaska and the United States of America.”
She went on to describe the United States as being “at a tipping point.”
“As I’ve watched the far left destroy the country, I knew I had to step up and join the fight,” she said. “The people of the great state of Alaska, like others all over the country, are struggling with out-of-control inflation, empty shelves and gas prices that are among the highest in the world.
“We need energy security for this country, and Alaska can help provide that — but only if the federal government gets out of the way and lets the free market do what it does best,” she added.
Palin, of course, catapulted unto the national political stage in summer of 2008 after several conservative commentators, including Bill Kristol, urged Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate for president that year, to pick her as his vice-presidential running mate.
Their argument was that Palin’s presence on the ticket would help line up voters on the religious right and that the candidate himself would solidify his reputation for thinking outside the box while introducing a new face to the scene.
Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for McCain’s presidential campaign, later described her selection as a great mistake.
“It’s a story of when cynicism and idealism collide, when you have to do the things that are necessary to win to try to get in office to do the great things you want to do for the country,” Schmidt said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program in March 2012.
“I think it showed a process of vetting that was debilitated by secrecy, that was compartmentalized, that failed, that led to a result that was reckless for the country,” he continued. “And I think when you look back at that race, you see this person who is just so phenomenally talented at so many levels, an ability to connect. But also someone who had a lot of flaws as someone running to be in the national command authority who clearly wasn’t prepared.”
Palin did indeed start out well on the campaign trail, but a series of interviews, particularly one with Katie Couric, then of CBS News, garnered mixed reviews and her poll numbers began to slide.
In back rooms across the country, Republicans and conservatives alike were reportedly split over whether she had become so much of a liability that she should resign.
In the end, McCain stood by Palin, and most post-mortems of the election found early claims she cost McCain the race were unfounded. from the ticket.
Even Schmidt conceded as much in that 2012 interview.
“Politically, she was a net positive to the campaign,” he said, but also described her as a “net negative” because “someone was nominated to the vice presidency who was manifestly unprepared to take the oath of office should it become necessary and as it has become necessary many times in American history.”
Palin has kept a low profile in Alaska politics since resigning as governor in 2009. At the time she said she believed she could make a bigger difference outside the governor’s office.
She also had expressed outrage over ethics complaints she felt had frivolously targeted her.
Since then, she’s maintained a national presence via speaking engagements, appearances with conservative outlets and on reality TV.
She also was an early and avid supporter of now-former President Donald Trump.
Palin most recently made headlines through a high profile and ultimately unsuccessful libel suit she filed against The New York Times. It was unclear this weekend how her candidacy will impact a possible appeal of that case.
Palin will now compete in a special primary in Alaska scheduled for June 11. The top four vote-getters will advance to an Aug. 16 special election in which ranked-choice voting will be used.
The winner, expected to be certified by Sept. 2, will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which expires in January.
The special election will coincide with the regular primary. The regular primary and November general election will determine who represents Alaska in the House for a two-year term starting in January.
Among the others who have filed to run for the seat are Republican Nick Begich, who previously announced plans to run for U.S. House last fall; John Coghill, a Republican former state lawmaker; Emil Notti, a Democrat who narrowly lost the 1973 election to Young; Democrat Christopher Constant, an Anchorage Assembly member; Democratic state Rep. Adam Wool; and independent Al Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2020.
Former lawmakers Andrew Halcro and Mary Sattler Peltola are also running.
Asked in 2012 whether he thought Palin had a future as a national leader in the GOP, Steve Schmidt told Andrea Mitchell of “Morning Joe” he hoped not.
“And the reason I say that is because if you look at, over the last four years, all of the deficiencies in knowledge, all the deficiencies in preparedness, she’s done not one thing to rectify them, to correct them,” Schmidt said. “She has become a person who I think is filled with grievance, filled with anger who has a divisive message for the national stage when we need leaders in both parties to have a unifying message. … The lack of preparedness was a bad thing and the total disinterest in being more prepared and rectifying that is something that disqualifies.”
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