JUNEAU, Alaska — Republican Sarah Palin has re-emerged in Alaskan politics more than a decade after stepping down as governor in hopes of winning the state’s seat in the United States House. She had a lot going for her: unbeatable name recognition, the support of former President Donald Trump in a state he carried twice, an unparalleled ability to garner national media attention.
But she struggled to ignite with voters, some of whom were put off by her resignation in 2009, and led what critics saw as a lackluster campaign against a Republican endorsed by state party leaders. and a breakout Democrat who ran as a regular Alaskan and ran on a platform of “fish, family, and freedom.”
Palin lost two elections for the House seat that Republican Don Young held for 49 years before his death in March – a special ballot in August to determine who would serve the remainder of his term and the November 8 general election for a full term of two years. The results of the November 8 elections were announced on Wednesday. Both ranked votes were won by Democrat Mary Peltola, who is Yup’ik and who, with her victory in the special election, became the first Alaska Native to sit in Congress.
Peltola, a former state lawmaker, avoided the sniping between Palin and Republican Nick Begich, who called the former governor a quitter and 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” siphoning votes from her. The two nonetheless promoted a “file red” strategy ahead of this month’s election in hopes of recapturing the GOP seat. The general election also included a Libertarian who was far behind.
Jim Lottsfeldt, a political consultant affiliated with a super PAC who backed Peltola, said the election looked like a lot of “easy layups” for Republicans.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, could have “run away” with them but didn’t seem focused, he said. He cited as missteps Palin’s trips outside of Alaska, including one to New York days before the general election, and ‘goofy’ events at home, including one organized by a political action committee uncrowded and featuring a James Brown tribute performer.
PHOTOS: Palin’s next act unclear after Alaska House losses
With the losses, Lottsfeldt said, the uniquely conservative sensation becomes “kind of old news.”
Republican strategist Brad Todd said Palin “had a lot of characteristics that President Trump had before President Trump came along. And now there are a lot of President Trump impersonators. He said that poses a challenge for someone like Palin, who has “a lot more company in her lane than she had 12, 14 years ago.”
“A challenge, and President Trump will have that challenge as well, is if you want to be the kind of mercenary sent to fight big battles, you have to win,” Todd said.
But he said the “anti-elite vernacular” common to 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.”
Palin has pledged since the election to support an effort to repeal a 2020 Alaska voter-approved system that replaced party primaries with open primaries and instituted ranked ballots in general elections. This year’s elections were the first held under the system, which Palin began to rail against before the first votes were cast.
Art Mathias, a leader in the repeal effort, said Palin has a “huge following” and would be “invaluable” in efforts to push it forward.
Palin told reporters on Election Day that she wasn’t sure what she’d be doing in two years if she lost, but said “my heart goes out to Alaskans.” She also said she wanted to talk with members of Congress about what she could do, even outside of elected office, “to help ensure that Americans can trust what happens in government.”
The comments were similar to those she made in 2009 when she resigned as governor. Palin attributed her decision to step down to requests for public records and ethics complaints that she said had become distractions.
Palin, the former mayor of her hometown Wasilla, caused a stir in conservative politics after bursting onto the national scene in 2008 with her folksy demeanor and zingy one-liners. She wrote books, participated in the speaking circuit, appeared on reality TV programs, spent time as a Fox News contributor and formed a political action committee that has since disbanded. .
Although she largely stayed out of Alaska politics after leaving the governor’s office, Palin was an early supporter of Trump’s 2016 race and made headlines this year with an unsuccessful lawsuit against the New York Times.
In a June interview, she bristled at critics’ suggestions that she had left Alaska behind, saying she lived in the state, raised her children here, and was ” so Alaskan” that she had recently hit a moose while driving.
Palin made videos through Cameo, a site where people can pay for personalized messages from celebrities. His are advertised at $199.
Palin revived her 2008 mantra, “Drill, baby, drill,” during the home race calling for more oil production, and while she and Peltola were friendly, Palin argued that the voting system ranking had “produced the travesty of sending a Democrat to Congress to represent Alaska, one of the reddest states in the country.
Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state lawmaker who ran for governor against Palin and was among 48 candidates in the special House primary in June, said he doesn’t think Palin “has really understood and acknowledged the high percentage of voters who just didn’t like her.” Palin took no steps to win them over or attract Begich’s supporters, he added.
Begich was the second candidate eliminated in the general election after the Libertarian. When Begich’s 64,392 votes were transferred into the ranked vote tabulation process, just over 43,000 went to Palin, but about 21,500 of her voters did not choose a second choice or gave their vote to Peltola, who beat Palin with 55% of the vote.
But Halcro said he didn’t see Palin disappearing from the scene.
“My question is, when did people like Palin or Trump ever leave after losing? … They just stepped up their rhetoric,” he said.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.