JUNEAU, Alaska — Sarah Palin shook up an already unpredictable race for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, joining a field of 50 other candidates seeking to fill the seat held for decades by the late-U.S. Rep. Don Young, who died last month.
Palin filed paperwork Friday with a state Division of Elections office in Wasilla, said Tiffany Montemayor, a division spokesperson.
Palin, a former Alaska governor who was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has the biggest national political profile in the packed field that includes current and former state legislators and a North Pole city council member named Santa Claus.
“Public service is a 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 said in a statement on social media.
Young, a Republican, had held Alaska’s House seat since 1973 and was seeking reelection at the time of his death last month at age 88.
Palin resigned as governor in 2009, partway through her term, and said she could make a difference outside the governor’s office. She also had expressed outrage over ethics complaints she felt had frivolously targeted her.
Palin has kept a low profile in Alaska politics since then but maintained a presence nationally, including through speaking engagements, appearances with conservative outlets and on reality TV. She also was an early supporter of now-former President Donald Trump.
She has hinted at possible runs for office in the past but never took the plunge. In her statement, she said America is “at a tipping point” and that she’s in the race to “win it and join the fight for freedom alongside other patriots willing to sacrifice all to save our country.”
A special primary is set for June 11. The top four vote-getters will advance to an Aug. 16 special election in which ranked choice voting will be used, a process in line with a new elections system approved by voters in 2020.
The winner, targeted to be certified by Sept. 2, will serve the remainder of Young’s term, which expires in January.
The special election will coincide with the regular primary. The regular primary and November general election will determine who represents Alaska in the House for a two-year term starting in January.
Others who filed Friday include Democratic state Rep. Adam Wool; independent Al Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2020; and Emil Notti, a Democrat who narrowly lost the 1973 election to Young. Former lawmakers Andrew Halcro and Mary Sattler Peltola are also running.
They join a field that had already included Republican Nick Begich, who previously announced plans to run for U.S. House last fall; Democrat Christopher Constant, an Anchorage Assembly member; and John Coghill, a Republican former state lawmaker.
Begich, an early challenger to Young, said he sees the Matanuska-Susitna region, a hotbed of conservatism that includes Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, as one of his strongest areas of the state.
Begich said there are a “lot of opportunistic candidates, in our view, that have chosen to get in. I think that the entry of Gov. Palin is completely consistent with that sort of spirit of opportunism that we’re seeing right now.”
Halcro, who has a podcast on which he talks politics, lost to Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial general election. He said during this campaign he plans to play up his intent to only run to fill the remainder of the term. He is running as an independent.
Meanwhile, a man who years ago legally changed his name to Santa Claus and serves on the North Pole city council also filed for the special primary. Claus, who said he has a “strong affinity” for Bernie Sanders, is running as an independent.
He said he is not soliciting or raising money. He said the new elections process “gives people like me an opportunity, without having to deal with parties, to throw our hat in the ring.”
“I do have name recognition,” he said with a laugh.