Sarah Palin is not used to sharing the spotlight.
In the nearly 14 years since she burst onto the national political scene, the former Alaska governor has appeared on reality shows, written books, spent time as a Fox News contributor, formed a political action committee on her behalf, and was rumored to have he was a member of the White House. contender. More recently, she revived her status as a conservative sensation with an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against The New York Times.
Now, the first Republican vice-presidential nominee is vying for what might be considered a less glamorous role: a member of the US House of Representatives.
Palin is among 48 candidates running for Alaska’s only House seat following the death last month of Republican Rep. Don Young, who held the position for 49 years. If he succeeds, Palin would be one of 435 members of a chamber where ambition is deep but legislating is difficult, largely because of populist politics that prevailed after the 2008 election.
Given that dynamic, it would be easy to dismiss Palin’s candidacy as the latest headline-grabbing twist in an unconventional race. Some of her critics have tried to portray her as an opportunist seeking to reinforce her brand. The opinion section of the website of Alaska’s largest newspaper is peppered with letters to the editor urging Alaskans to reject her candidacy. Some remind readers that she left the last major job she had in politics, as Governor of Alaska, with about 16 months remaining on her term.
But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, Palin, 58, dismissed such criticism. She insisted that her commitment to Alaska has not wavered and those who suggest otherwise “don’t know me.” She said that she is serious about seeking the House seat and that she doesn’t need a “launching pad for anything else.”
Indeed, she said, her unique place in American politics would put her in a stronger position in Washington. Unlike other freshman lawmakers, she said, she could “pick up the phone and call any reporter and be on any show if she wanted, and it would be all about Alaska.”
“I love to work, and everyone around me knows that,” he said. “What I’m doing is applying for a job, for Alaskans, saying, ‘Hey, you guys would be my boss. Do you want to hire me? Because if you do, I’ll do a good job for you and I won’t back down.’”
There is only one former governor who is currently a member of the House: Democrat Charlie Crist of Florida. Palin faces several obstacles to get there.
One is navigating elections that will unfold in quick order. A special June 11 primary will be the first statewide mail-in election. The four candidates with the most votes will advance to a special election on August 16, in which ranked-choice voting will be used. The winner will serve out the remainder of Young’s term, which expires in January.
There will also be a primary election in August and a general election in November to determine who will serve a two-year term beginning in January. Palin is one of 16 candidates who have so far filed for the regular primaries.
Some voters question Palin’s decision to leave the governor’s office, a move she blamed on a spate of records requests and ethics complaints that she said were frivolous and had become distractions.
He has spent time out of state, but maintains a home in Wasilla, his hometown and where he got his start in politics.
“Well, I’m sorry if that narrative is out there because it’s inaccurate,” he said of the perception that he had left Alaska behind. She said Alaska is her home and that she was “shoveling moose poop” in her father’s yard on a recent sunny day before calling a reporter.
She has regularly voted in statewide elections since leaving office, according to the Division of Elections.
“I still like Carhartts, steel-toed boots and hard work,” Palin said, referring to a popular outerwear brand. “I’ve just been blessed with opportunities and a platform to get out there and tell and show other people the beauty of being an Alaskan Native.”
She mentions the hunting lifestyles of Alaskans and the importance of responsibly developing the state’s oil and gas resources. She said she plans to attend events, including this week’s GOP state convention.
The race in Republican-leaning Alaska will do little to change the balance of power in Washington. But the election is being watched closely as a barometer of former President Donald Trump’s connection to the Republican Party’s most loyal voters.
In Wasilla, Trump 2020 or Trump 2024 banners wave from various homes, the few political signs seen so far this election year. Palin said that if Trump runs for president in 2024 and asks her to be his running mate, he would consider it, though he said he could pick anyone and they haven’t had such a candid conversation.
Palin said Trump was among those who contacted her after Young’s death to ask if she would be willing to run. She said this is a good time in her life to seek a return to office, politically and personally. Her family life has changed, she noted, with her four oldest children growing up. Her youngest child, Trig, is in high school. Palin divorced Todd Palin, her husband of more than 30 years, in 2020.
Palin said she feels like she “has nothing to lose” by running. After having his political and personal life in the media for so long, “what else can they say?” he said, adding later: “For me, it’s freedom.”
Trump has endorsed Palin and made the state’s top US senator, Lisa Murkowski, one of his top targets this year after she criticized him and voted to convict him during his second impeachment trial.
Even if Palin doesn’t win the election, she could emerge as a high-voltage criticism of Murkowski, who will face voters later this year. Palin said that he disagrees with Murkowski on some of his positions, including his vote to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial. But on issues like resource development in Alaska, Palin said he believed they would be “on the same page.”
Palin has perhaps the highest profile among a list of candidates that includes current and former state lawmakers, a North Pole city council member whose legal name is Santa Claus, and Republican Nick Begich, who entered the race last fall. past and has been working for months. garner conservative support.
Begich said he sees the Matanuska-Susitna region, a conservative hotbed that includes Wasilla, as one of his strongest areas. He said he is not aware of any of his supporters defecting since Palin joined the race.
“Everyone who has come to support me continues to fully support me, and that is a strong statement because a lot of things have changed,” he said.
Tim Burney, who lives in Wasilla, said he supports Palin. He said she resigned “for the good of the state” after her critics “came at her with guns blazing.”
“She lives here down the street and, you know, she grew up here,” he said as he smoked a cigarette outside the Mug-Shot Saloon after finishing lunch on a recent day.
“Her heart is here in Alaska, and I think she’s good for Alaska,” he said.
Joe Miller, a former Republican and now Libertarian whom Palin endorsed in two of her unsuccessful Senate races, said Palin would not be an ordinary freshman in the House and would have an “extraordinary” platform she could use to help Alaska. He said she is the “only truly conservative, anti-establishment candidate” in the race and could be the “natural reservoir” of voters’ angst over economic and other issues.
Holly Houghton, who works as a pharmaceutical technician, is willing to listen to Palin. Houghton, who was recently eating takeout with her son outside a restaurant in Wasilla, said she has mixed feelings about Palin and that she, too, is considering Begich.
Houghton said he doesn’t like how Palin has behaved in her personal life, but also thought she was an “excellent” governor.
Houghton said he thinks of the Begich family as Democrats and wants to take a closer look at Begich. Begich’s grandfather, Democrat Nick Begich, held the House seat before Young. His Uncle Mark was a Democratic US Senator and his Uncle Tom is the Democratic Leader of the State Senate.
Jesse Sumner, a member of the Matanuska-Susitna District Assembly, said he thinks Begich is a good candidate. Sumner filed to run for the House seat as a prank on the filing deadline, April Fools’ Day. He later retired.
He said he doesn’t see much of Palin around town and that Palin’s career seems to be “more like the Sarah Palin show than Alaska.”
Bohrer reported from Juneau, Alaska.