The stage is officially set for a MAGA-driven election season in one of America’s wildest and most politically idiosyncratic states: Alaska.
On Tuesday, Alaskans voted in a rare two-headed election: a primary to set the field for statewide US House and Senate elections in November, and a special election to fill the rest. of the late Republican Rep. Don Young’s term in Congress. Votes from that contest won’t be fully counted until the end of August.
Regardless, Donald Trump’s two choices for Alaska’s House and Senate seats are very much alive heading into the heart of election season, giving the former president a chance to solidify his influence in the state by elevating an ally and unseating an enemy.
On that first front, the Trump-endorsed Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor turned vice-presidential candidate turned reality star, will advance to the general election ballot for the US House of Representatives race. ., the first open race for Alaska’s only seat in five decades. of Young’s service.
In the second, Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of six Republican senators who voted to convict Trump after January 6, will advance to the general election as she seeks a third term in the US Senate. But so will Kelly Tshibaka, Trump’s handpicked candidate to exact revenge on an apostate Republican.
The peculiarities of Alaska and its electoral system mean that these contests are not exactly easy. The state has an open primary system in which the top four voters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.
In November, as well as in the special election that also happened on Tuesday, the winner will be chosen through a system called ranked-choice voting. Sometimes called an “instant runoff,” the ranked election asks voters to rank their preferred candidates so that a winner is automatically chosen if no candidate wins a simple majority on the first ballot.
The Senate race is largely seen as a contest between Tshibaka and Murkowski.
House’s career is more dynamic. Palin faces two main rivals, one from each party. Nick Begich, who comes from a famous Alaskan Democratic family, is running as a far-right conservative, though he lacks Trump’s endorsement. Begich has already lashed out at Palin, tapping into the discontent among many Alaska Republicans about the former governor’s career and a perceived lack of commitment to the state’s problems.
Democrat Mary Peltola will also be a factor in the top four. If she wins, she would be the first Alaskan native elected to Congress from the state, which has a sizable indigenous minority.
Alaska has been consistently Republican at the presidential level for decades, but it has an independent streak: No other state has a higher proportion of voters who are unaffiliated with any political party.
That dynamic has convinced Democrats to invest resources to contest their seats in Congress, although those efforts have yet to bear fruit. In 2020, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan beat a well-funded Democratic-aligned challenger by 12 points, and Young won his final race against a Democratic-aligned candidate by almost 10 points.