When Congressman Don Young passed away recently after representing Alaska for almost half a century, he opened the floodgates to what will likely be a series of chaotic elections. The first of those will be the “special primary” coming up on June 11, and a familiar name in political circles has now jumped into the fray. Former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has announced that she will be running to serve out the rest of Young’s term. Palin hasn’t been on the campaign trail since 2008, but she’s still in her fifties and seems quite fit and energetic, so there’s no reason she shouldn’t give it a go. But chaos always seems to follow Palin wherever she goes, so if nothing else, this special election probably just got a lot more interesting. (NBC News)
In her first campaign for public office since 2008, former Alaska governor and onetime Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin announced Friday she was running for Congress.
Palin, who was catapulted onto the national stage as Sen. John McCain’s running mate 14 years ago, jumped into a race to fill the seat held by GOP Rep. Don Young for almost 50 years before he died last month.
“Public service is calling, and I would be honored to represent the men and women of Alaska in Congress, just as Rep, Young did for 49 years,” Palin wrote in a statement.
I’ll confess to being a little surprised by this announcement. In terms of the normal flow of political careers, going from being a governor and national candidate to running for a seat in the House would probably be seen by many analysts as something of a step down. But she has a number of things going for her. She has more national name recognition than pretty much anyone else in Alaska, including Murkowski. Her fundraising potential will almost certainly be off the charts as well, and she remains popular in her home state.
With all of that said, she has a complicated process to tackle if she really wants to take a seat in the House. Thanks to Alaska’s increasingly weird election laws, she’s not running for a full two-year term. The winner of this race won’t be known until the special election on August 16, and they will only be serving until the end of the year. It’s not yet clear if she has filed to run in the full election in November, but if she wants a full term whether she wins or loses the special election, she’ll have to do that as well.
Also, the structure of these elections will complicate things further. The special primary is a “jungle primary,” so candidates from all parties run against each other, with the top four vote-getters moving on to the special election. There are already more than 40 people running in the primary. Assuming she makes it past that hurdle, Alaska has foolishly (in my opinion) chosen to institute ranked-choice voting for the special election. So if it’s close enough that nobody reaches 50%, she could still be knocked out if she’s not the second choice pick of enough people even if she gets the most votes in the original special election.
Even then, if she manages to win the entire thing and be seated, she will immediately have to be out on the campaign trail for the general election in November and go through the entire gauntlet again. Let’s hope she’s in good shape with plenty of stamina because this could be a long, bumpy ride. The other factor we might want to consider is that Palin’s presence on the ballot for pretty much anything higher than dogcatcher will potentially fire up the liberals and Democrats. Sarah Palin probably drives them crazy more than anyone else except Donald Trump himself.
That brings up yet another question. Will Trump endorse her as he did for Murkowski’s opponent? In 2016 there was some talk about Palin discussing a position in the administration with Trump, but nothing ever came of it. It’s hard to say just how much of a Palin fan Trump is, but he might be able to make a difference if he’s in her corner. I would honestly be shocked if she hadn’t already been in touch with Trump on this matter.