As the ballot count continues in Alaska's special primary for the at-large seat of the late Republican Rep. Don Young, all signs are that Sarah Palin will top the field of 48 candidates and thus become 1 of 4 candidates in the Aug. 16 special election.
But the big question now is whether the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee can actually win Young's seat under the new and hitherto untried "ranked-choice voting" system that voters in the Land of the Midnight Sun narrowly approved in a referendum two years ago.
Under this system, voters will choose in August between Palin (who got about 30% in the primary Sunday), fellow Republican Nick Begich, III (19%), surgeon and 2020 independent U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross (12%), and arch-liberal Democrat and former state Rep. Mary Peltola (7%).
If no candidate draws 50%, then the lowest vote-getter among the four is eliminated and his or her second-choice votes are counted for the remaining three. If no one gets a majority, the next lowest-vote getter is eliminated and, in this case, his or her second-choice votes are counted. The process continues until a candidate is declared a winner with a majority of votes — albeit through second and/or third choices.
The worry among Palin supporters is whether the conservative heroine and Trump Republican will get many second or third-choice votes. Even supporters agree that Palin is a polarizing figure and will either win with first-choice votes or face Alaskans — many of whom never forgave her for suddenly resigning the governorship in 2013 to pursue celebrity endeavors — who will vote for "anybody but Sarah."
Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell voiced the anger of many Alaska Republicans when he told Newsmax: "I opposed ranked-choice voting and hope Alaska gets rid of it. In a four-way race with serious contenders, it is hard for a candidate to win 50% plus one, and then the cascade begins."
Based on the early votes (in the Sunday primary), Treadwell believes, "What would have been a decisive win in a Republican primary for Palin becomes an opener for second and third 'rounds' and initial second and third-place finishers, whose mandate would come from people who would rank Palin lower, while Palin voters' second choice votes won't come into play."
Some Palin supporters have hope that supporters of the late Rep. Young may come over to her in the run-off. Begich is the namesake-grandson of the Democrat congressman who preceded Young. He had been Young's campaign chairman in 2020 but was already running against Young this year until Young's death in March changed the political dynamics of the state.
Widow Anne Young endorsed State Sen. Josh Revak (who drew about 2.4% of the vote) and other supporters of the late congressman backed former Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tara Sweeney (who placed fifth with just over 5%). Both of these candidates and their supporters are considered unlikely to vote for Begich and could easily wind up on Palin's corner in August.
Whatever the outcome of the August contest in Alaska, it is sure to draw nationwide attention in large part because it will determine the political fate of Sarah Palin.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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