Juneau, Alaska – Republican Sarah Palin has re-emerged in Alaska politics more than a decade after resigning as governor with hopes of winning a seat in the state House of Representatives. She had a lot going for her: unparalleled fame, support for former President Donald Trump in a condition he suffered twice, an unmatched ability to command national media attention.
But she struggled with voters, some of whom were put off by her resignation in 2009, and ran what critics saw as a lackluster campaign against a Republican backed by state party leaders and a Democrat who broke out of Alaska and ran on a “fish, family” platform. and freedom.”
Palin lost two House elections to Republican Don Young in the 49 years before his death in March: a special vote in August to determine who would serve out the remainder of his term, and the Nov. 8 general election for a full two-year term. The results of the November 8 election were announced on Wednesday. Both ranking votes were won by Democrat Mary Peltola, who is Yup’ik and became the first Alaska Native to become a member of Congress with her special election win.
Peltola, a former state lawmaker, avoided a sniping battle between Palin and Republican Nick Begich, who called the former governor a thrower and a self-promoter. Palin suggested that Begich, who entered the race last fall months before Palin and comes from a family of prominent Democrats, was a “plant” who was taking votes away from her. Still, both have encouraged a “nominate red” strategy ahead of this month’s election in hopes of winning back the seat for the GOP. The general election also included a Libertarian that fell well behind.
Jim Lotsfeldt, a political consultant affiliated with a super PAC that supported Peltola, said the election looked to many like an “easy layoff” for Republicans.
Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, could have “run away” with them but didn’t seem focused, he said. He cited as mistakes Palin’s trips outside Alaska, including to New York days before the general election, as well as “stupid” events at home, including an event organized by a political action committee that was poorly attended and featured James Brown tribute act.
With the losses, Lotsfeldt said, the one-time conservative sensation is becoming “old news.”
Republican strategist Brad Todd said Palin “had a lot of the characteristics that President Trump had before President Trump came. And now there are many imitators of President Trump.” He said that creates a problem for someone like Palin, who has “a lot more company than 12 to 14 years ago.”
“One challenge, and one President Trump will face as well, is if you’re going to be like a mercenary who gets sent to fight big battles, you’ve got to win,” Todd said.
But he said the “anti-elitist language” common in the Republican Party comes naturally to Palin, and two election losses won’t stop her from “being a very powerful surrogate for some people if she wants to.”
After the election, Palin pledged to support efforts to repeal the system approved by Alaska voters in 2020, which replaced party primaries with open primaries and introduced ranked-choice voting in the general election. This year’s election was the first to be held under the system, which Palin began speaking out against before the first votes were cast.
Art Mathias, a leader of the repeal effort, said Palin has a “huge audience” and would be “invaluable” in the effort to push it forward.
Palin told reporters on Election Day that she wasn’t sure what she would do in two years if she lost, but said “my heart is in serving the people of Alaska.” She also said she wants to talk to members of Congress about what she can do, even outside of elected office, “to help make sure that Americans can trust what’s going on in government.”
The comments were similar to those she made in 2009 when she resigned as governor. Palin blamed her decision to step down on public records requests and ethics complaints, which she said had become a distraction.
Palin, a former mayor of her hometown of Wasilla, made a splash in conservative politics after bursting onto the national scene in 2008 with her folksy demeanor and punchy one-liners. She wrote books, gave speeches, appeared on reality shows, worked as a Fox News contributor, and started a political action committee that has since disbanded.
Although she has largely stayed out of Alaska politics since leaving the governorship, Palin was an early supporter of Trump’s 2016 election and made headlines this year with her failed lawsuit against The New York Times.
In an interview in June, she bristled at critics suggesting she had left Alaska, saying she lives in the state, raised her children here and is “such an Alaskan” that she recently hit a moose while driving.
Palin filmed the video through Cameo, a site where people can pay for personalized messages from celebrities. It is advertised for $199.
Palin revived her 2008 mantra of “drill, baby, drill” during the House race, calling for increased oil production, and while she and Peltol were friendly, Palin argued that the ranked-choice voting system “created a travesty of sending a Democrat to Congress to represent Alaska, one of the reddest states in the country.”
Andrew Halcrow, a former Republican state lawmaker who ran for governor against Palin and was among 48 candidates in a special House primary in June, said he didn’t think Palin “really understood and recognized the high percentage of voters who are just not like her.” . Palin made no moves to win them over or attract Begich’s supporters, he added.
Begich became the second candidate after the Libertarian to drop out in the general election. When Begich’s 64,392 votes were counted in the ranked-choice counting process, just over 43,000 went to Palin, but about 21,500 of his voters did not choose a second choice or cast their vote for Peltola, who defeated Palin with 55% of the vote.
But Halcro said he doesn’t see Palin disappearing from the scene.
“My question is, when have people like Palin or Trump ever left after they lost? … They just stepped up their rhetoric,” he said.
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