Sarah Palin is facing off against Santa Claus in Alaska's special primary election | CNN Politics (2023)

Sarah Palin is facing off against Santa Claus in Alaska's special primary election | CNN Politics (1)

Sarah Palin, a Republican seeking the sole US House seat in Alaska, addresses supporters on June 2, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Anchorage, Alaska CNN

The wildest congressional contest of 2022 is unfolding in Alaska, where the state’s former governor and onetime Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is attempting a political comeback in a crowded field for a House seat that is open for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Palin was a late and last-minute entrant in the special election race, and her run was met with an immediate endorsement from former President Donald Trump – who said in a statement that he was paying Palin back for her early support for his 2016 presidential bid.

But in Alaska, Trump’s endorsement might not carry the weight it has in other open-seat contests across the 2022 primary map.

(Video) Sarah Palin leads in early election results for Alaska special primary

Palin is known on the national stage for the then-governor’s 2008 bid for vice president as the late Sen. John McCain’s out-of-nowhere selection as running mate. At home, though, many still resent Palin for quitting her job as governor in 2009, less than three years into her single term in office. Trump, meanwhile, ran behind many Alaska Republicans in 2020, though he won the state by 10 percentage points.

“I didn’t vote for her. She quit in the middle of the job,” said Alfred Rockwood, an 80-year-old retiree in Anchorage.

“She left a big stink in people’s mouth when she quit after running (for vice president). That rubbed people the wrong way,” said Kelly Lyons, a 46-year-old engineer in Anchorage.

The race to replace former Rep. Don Young, who died in March at 88 after representing Alaska in the House since 1973, has drawn a number of ambitious contenders who had been waiting years for an opening – as well as dozens of candidates who have not done much campaigning, but ponied up the $100 filing fee anyway.

The Republican establishment is backing a member of the state’s most prominent Democratic family. The Democratic Party is turning ferociously against the candidate it supported in a Senate race less than two years ago.

Oh, and Santa Claus is on the ballot – and he has a chance.

In all, 48 candidates are on the ballots that were mailed to the state’s voters, who must pick one and drop the ballot back in the mail by Saturday.

The top four finishers will advance to the special election on August 16. In that race, Alaska will use a ranked-choice system – with voters not just picking their preferred candidate but listing them in order – to determine the winner. That person will serve out the remainder of Young’s term.

Further complicating matters: That same day in August, they’ll also vote again in the regular House primary – in which they will select only one candidate of the 31 running, determining which four move on to the November general election. Voters then will use the ranked-choice system again – and the candidate who emerges victorious will serve a full two-year term in Washington.

Palin’s campaign for Congress has been enigmatic. She has participated in some events and held a rally in Anchorage on June 2, which Trump called into. But she hasn’t offered any sort of detailed agenda, and hasn’t laid out where she sees herself fitting into the GOP in Washington. Palin’s campaign did not respond to interview requests.

She said at a May candidate forum that she wanted to allow the state to drill and mine by protecting it from the influence of a “far-off faceless bureaucrat, or politician in some bubble, that’s going to tell Alaska where and when and how we’re going to develop our resources.”

(Video) Do You Buy That ... Sarah Palin Can Win Alaska’s House Seat? | FiveThirtyEight

“The federal government needs to back off,” she said. “Government, get off our back, get back on our side, and allow Alaskans to access our God-given natural resources that are created for mankind’s responsible use.”

But Palin’s rivals have cast doubt on whether she could play the role Young long played as the advocate for Alaska’s interests in Washington, no matter the cost to the rest of the country.

“I think her celebrity has outrun her. And even if she wanted to serve Alaska well, she can’t get away from her celebrity status. I think it would be hard for her to settle in and do the work of a congresswoman,” said John Coghill, a former state lawmaker whose father helped write Alaska’s constitution.

“I think she’s a wonderful person, personally,” Coghill said. “But it is true that in Alaska, many people felt that when she went off on that presidential race, that she walked off on Alaska. She could have come back and said, ‘OK, what’s next,’ and she didn’t.”

Among Alaska political observers and even the longer-shot candidates in the special election, there are three clear favorites to advance to the four-person runoff: Palin, Nick Begich III, a Republican member of Alaska’s most prominent Democratic political family, and Al Gross, an independent who lost his 2020 Senate bid to GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan by 12 percentage points.

Those three candidates have provoked a series of unusual alliances and enemies.

Sarah Palin is facing off against Santa Claus in Alaska's special primary election | CNN Politics (2)

Nick Begich, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Begich III – the grandson of Nick Begich, the former Democratic House member whose plane disappeared in 1972 and has never been found – had entered the regular House race planning to challenge Young months before his death, taking a conservative approach to federal spending that is out of Alaska’s norm and criticizing the congressman for supporting the federal infrastructure bill. The Alaska Republican Party endorsed Begich III in the special election for the position once held by his grandfather – Young was elected to the state’s only House seat after the first Nick Begich was pronounced dead and held it until his own death in March.

(Video) U.S. House candidate forum - Alaska

The Alaska Democratic Party, meanwhile, has harshly rebuked Gross – the wealthy independent candidate the party supported in the 2020 Senate race – because he had suggested he might caucus with Republicans. After the state party’s criticism, Gross reversed course and said he would caucus with Democrats, with his campaign citing the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Still, state Democrats have kept up their attacks on Gross, urging voters to select one of the six registered Democrats on their special primary ballots.

The race for the fourth spot in the runoff, though, is wide open.

Alaska Democrats have urged the party’s voters to go with one of the six registered Democrats in the race. Among the frontrunners in that pack are Anchorage assemblyman Christopher Constant and respected former state lawmaker Mary Peltola, who directs an inter-tribal fish commission in the vast western portion of the state, which is off Alaska’s road system.

Peltola, who has a long track record working on Alaska-specific issues, said she has found voters are largely focused on national issues.

“This could be 1965. We’re looking at another Cold War. We’re discussing women’s reproductive rights. We’ve got tension between different demographic groups,” Peltola said. “It didn’t really occur to me before I was running for this seat that we’d be talking about things as basic as democracy and civility and respectfulness.”

Peltola once represented a state legislative district that is roughly the size of Oregon. If elected, she would become the first indigenous person to represent Alaska in Congress.

“Whether it’s me or someone else, I just think it’s high time that an Alaska Native be part of our congressional delegation,” Peltola said.

She is one of four candidates vying for that history-making mantle as the first Alaska Native in Congress. The other leading contender in that pack is Republican Tara Sweeney, the former US assistant secretary of Native Affairs, who is backed by Alaska’s Native corporations. Sweeney was Young’s campaign co-chair.

Another Young campaign co-chair, Republican state Sen. Josh Revak, an Iraq war veteran, has the endorsement of Young’s widow. Coghill, the former state lawmaker, is well-liked by many Republicans and could benefit from the ranked-choice system if he advances.

“They’re just kind of that pent-up desire that Alaska needs a new representative and it should have happened a long time ago, and I’m willing to do it,” Coghill said, explaining the field of candidates so packed that it required an entire page to fit them on the ballot.

Then there’s Santa Claus, whose name alone might be enough to carry him into fourth place.

(Video) What The World Doesn't Know About Sarah Palin

The 75-year-old North Pole councilman – a portly, bearded Anglican monk who wears a red robe – is an independent candidate who identifies as a democratic socialist and supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential runs.

Sarah Palin is facing off against Santa Claus in Alaska's special primary election | CNN Politics (3)

Claus has a real platform. He said he supports abortion rights, would back environmentally friendly policies that would protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and favors Medicare for All. He said he spoke with Young, a leading marijuana advocate, about how he had used cannabis after battling cancer.

Claus is only running in the special House election, and is not a candidate for the full term beginning in 2023. A fourth-month stint, he said, would allow him to “catch up after all the months since Don had passed and get to work.” Every other candidate considered a serious contender is running in both elections.

“Whoever goes in for the short term, since we’ve been without representation for a while in the House, should spend their time working for the people of Alaska, not spending their time campaigning for the subsequent two-year term,” Claus said.

Before changing his name from Thomas Patrick O’Connor in 2005, Claus spent time in several US cities. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at New York University, and worked for the New York Police Department in the 1970s. He later lived in Colorado and Nevada, in skiing and resort communities where he often played Santa Claus during holiday events and became an advocate for at-risk children.

He said the name change came after he had grown out his beard and started playing Santa Claus for nonprofits at Lake Tahoe. On a walk on a snowy road in 2005, he had prayed about how he could use his Santa Claus-like appearance to help children. As he finished, he recalled, a white car drove by, and someone inside shouted: “Santa, I love you!”

“So,” he said, “I took it to heart.”


What political party is Santa Claus? ›

Santa Claus (politician)
The Right Reverend Santa Claus OAC
Assumed office October 2015
Personal details
BornThomas Patrick O'Connor May 1947 (age 75) Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyIndependent
9 more rows

What has Sarah Palin done for Alaska? ›

Palin was elected to the Wasilla city council in 1992 and became mayor of Wasilla in 1996. In 2003, after an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor, she was appointed chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, responsible for overseeing the state's oil and gas fields for safety and efficiency.

What is Sarah Palin known for? ›

Sarah Palin, while serving as Governor of Alaska, was nominated as the first female candidate of the Republican Party for Vice President of the United States.

How old is Sarah Palin now? ›

Was there ever a real Santa Claus? ›

He is based on St. Nicholas of Myra, who, according to Christian tradition, was a bishop in that small Roman town during the 4th century. Nicholas's reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy.

Who represents Alaska in Congress? ›

Alaska's current senators, both Republicans, are Dan Sullivan, in office since 2015, and Lisa Murkowski, in office since 2002.

Who was the lady that ran from for president from Alaska? ›

As part of the McCain presidential campaign, Palin, then the incumbent Governor of Alaska, was officially nominated by acclamation at the 2008 Republican National Convention on September 3. The McCain–Palin ticket lost the 2008 presidential election on November 4 to the Barack Obama–Joe Biden ticket.

Who is the governor of Alaska in 2022? ›

Archives for 2022

Governor Mike Dunleavy today delivered his fourth annual speech at the 2022 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention (AFN) in Anchorage. His address highlighted his vision for Alaska, the resiliency of rural Alaska, and the importance of working together for the next generation.

Is Alaska a state? ›

1959: Alaska and Hawaii admitted, respectively, as the 49th and 50th states of the Union.

Where does Sarah Palin live now? ›

Sarah Palin

Who was the first governor of Alaska? ›

List of governors of Alaska
Governor of Alaska
Inaugural holderWilliam A. Egan
FormationJanuary 3, 1959
DeputyKevin Meyer
6 more rows

Who is Peltola in Alaska? ›

A member of the Democratic Party, she served as a judge on the Orutsararmiut Native Council's tribal court from 2020 to 2021, and as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. Peltola served as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009.

Who is governor of Alaska now? ›

Governor Mike Dunleavy announced that Kristian Pickrell was appointed to the Ketchikan District Court. Mr. Pickrell has been an Alaska resident for 24½ years and has practiced law for 17...

Where in Alaska is Sarah Palin from? ›

What year was Santa Claus born? ›

It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends.

How old is Santa? ›

Exactly how old is Santa? According to the blog Email Santa, Santa Claus is 1,750 years old as of 2021. In fact, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced all the way back to a monk named Saint Nicholas, who was born between 260 and 280 A.D. in a village called Patara, which is part of modern-day Turkey.

What is Santa's phone number 2022? ›

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Here in the United States, the number to reach Ol' Saint Nick is (605) 313-4000.

Is Alaska a red or blue state? ›

Although in its early years of statehood Alaska was a Democratic state, since the early 1970s it has been characterized as Republican-leaning. Local political communities have often worked on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights.

What is the population of Alaska 2022? ›

Alaska population in 2022 is expected to be 731,011 and is the largest US state by area with 663,268 square miles (1,717,856 square km).

What state has only one representative? ›

4 Seven states have one Representative: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Delaware. The total U.S. population cannot simply be divided by number of members (435) to determine apportionment.

Is Al Gross a Democrat? ›

Alan Stuart Gross (born April 13, 1962) is an American politician, orthopedic surgeon and a commercial fisherman who, running as an independent candidate, was the Democratic nominee for the 2020 United States Senate election in Alaska. He lost the race to incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan. Juneau, Alaska, U.S.

Who is Peltola in Alaska? ›

A member of the Democratic Party, she served as a judge on the Orutsararmiut Native Council's tribal court from 2020 to 2021, and as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. Peltola served as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009.

Where is the North Pole Santa's house? ›

Located in the Arctic Circle, the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi is known as “Santa's official North Pole residence” and is one of the most popular travel destinations in Finland. The village is open year-round for kids of all ages to see Santa and his elves.

Is Mark Begich related to Nick Begich? ›

Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. Born in Anchorage, Begich is the son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich Sr. He was elected to the Anchorage Assembly at the age of 26. He eventually served as chairman for three years, before leaving the Assembly in 1998.

How many seats does Alaska have? ›

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its U.S. Congressional representation. Based on this, Alaska has three electors.

What parts of Alaska are inhabited? ›

The vast and sparsely populated regions of northern and western Alaska are primarily inhabited by Alaska Natives, who are also numerous in the southeast. Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other parts of south-central and southeast Alaska have many White Americans of northern and western European ancestry.

How old is Santa? ›

Exactly how old is Santa? According to the blog Email Santa, Santa Claus is 1,750 years old as of 2021. In fact, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced all the way back to a monk named Saint Nicholas, who was born between 260 and 280 A.D. in a village called Patara, which is part of modern-day Turkey.

Is Santa alive? ›

Nicholas died in A.D. 343 and was interred at St. Nicholas church in Demre, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In 1087, apparently, merchants dug up his bones and smuggled them to the Italian city of Bari, the Telegraph reported. It's still a holy site, visited by Christians paying homage to St.

What is Santa's phone number? ›

How to call Santa Claus this year: The phone number for Santa Claus in 2022 is: 605-313-4000. You can also visit to call the Santa Hotline through the official website.


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