Just when you thought the world couldn’t get any crazier, we learn Santa Claus is running for federal office. He, along with 47 others, including Sarah Palin, are vying to fill Alaska’s vacant seat in the House of Representatives. What in the world is going on in The Last Frontier?
Although big in size, Alaska doesn’t have a huge population; in fact, less than a million people live there. So, the State holds only one seat in the House of Representatives. For the past 49 years, Don Young served as Alaska’s lone representative in the House. His death on March 18th required a special election to be set to fill his seat for the remainder of his term. Cue political pandemonium.
Candidates came out of the woodwork (or perhaps a snowbank since it’s Alaska after all) to vie for the open position. Although over 50 folks submitted an application to run, the field was eventually whittled down to a mere 48 contenders. Unsurprisingly, this number is the most candidates ever in one election in Alaska and more than two times as large as any primary field in the state’s history. More people are running for office in this race than competed in the 2022 Iditarod–a dog sled race. Politics more appealing than a sports competition? What??
This Alaskan election is primarily a by mail election. Ballots must be received, or at least postmarked by, June 11th. In some 165 communities in the state, mostly rural locations, opportunities exist for in-person or early voting. These are areas where mail service is often spotty. (NOTE: I think that could be said for urban areas all over the country too, but I digress.) Ballots will be counted not one, not twice, but FOUR times before the target certification date of June 25th.
Then we’ll know the individual who’ll be headed off to D.C., right? Nope. The four candidates with the top four votes advance to a special election in August. Voters will use ranked choice voting, meaning they will indicate who is their first, second, third, and last choice. Whoever is #1 will serve the remainder of Young’s term which ends in January 2023.
The field of candidates is quite interesting. There’s not a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker that I could identify, but a gold miner, contractor, fishing guide, garden columnist, and an orthopedic surgeon, among others, are running. But that’s a good thing according to Chris Bye, a Libertarian candidate for the office. He believes, “typical Alaskans can make better decisions than groomed or professional politicians.” Bye, who quit his job with the military to run for office describes himself as a “normal dude.” (We’ll see if that’s how he remains if he flies off to spend time in the nation’s capital.)
With so many people to choose from on the ballot, the race is more confusing than a typical election. Thus, name recognition will be a big factor. The two most recognizable names are, hands down, Sarah Palin and Santa Claus–not necessarily in that order. Palin, the divorced mother of five, states she’s running because “public service called.” She, of course, was Alaska’s first female governor and John McCain’s pick for his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Former president Donald Trump has endorsed Palin in this current race. (Trump’s ticked lots of folks off, and now we can add Santa Claus to that long list.)
No joke–Santa Claus from the North Pole with a long white beard is really running in this election. But it’s not the Santa Claus we know and love. While his legal name is Santa Claus, the candidate does not magically fly around in a sleigh on Christmas Eve. The white-bearded gentleman, age 75, serves on the city council for Alaska’s North Pole community, where some 2,000 North Polites (is that what you call them?) live. (No word on how many reindeer are in the area…..)
Having Santa Claus in the race could be a bit dicey. Are you considered “naughty” if you don’t vote for him? If so, current state senator and candidate Josh Revak’s definitely on the naughty list. He’s released a campaign video stating he’s “waging a war on Santa” and his “Marxist fantasies.” Apparently, Santa and Bernie Sanders share many of the same political views.
While this election is political, party affiliation isn’t that big a deal. There are no more party primaries being held in Alaska. All candidates of whatever party are listed on the same ballot. In this case, the ballot is a mere one page with 48 options. (Note to voters of a certain age–have reading glasses handy when ready to peruse the ballot.) Candidates cover the political spectrum with 16 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 22 independents, at least one Libertarian, and some Undeclared.
And with politics, comes ugliness. Why what could be uglier than being unneighborly? General contractor Max Sumner won’t be able to go borrow a cup of sugar from Sarah Palin, a fellow resident of Wasilla (population around 10,000) now that the two members of the same community are pitted against each other for this House seat.
But then, there’s refreshing honesty in this election also. Sumner admits he voted for himself. While we are sure most candidates do, they don’t always state that fact publicly. He also notes he’s as serious about running in this race “as anyone else that knows they aren’t going to win.” Double points for being both honest and realistic.
In all seriousness, and for the sake of Alaskans, I hope the best man or woman wins the election. That having been said, it would be fun if Santa Claus won the race. What great headlines and comedic fodder would result. Don’t we all long to read news that can bring a smile to our faces even if just momentarily? My parting words to these candidates? And to all a good fight!
Is it responsible to run for office if you don’t think you can win? Do you believe some people vote based on name recognition alone? Do you like the idea of an open election where all voters of whatever political affiliation can participate?